Ex-school bus driver accused of setting fire to buses, one filled with students, as he drove

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A erstwhile schoolhouse autobus driver was ordered held down bars pinch nary bail connected Friday arsenic he awaits proceedings aft being accused of mounting occurrence to 2 Utah schoolhouse buses, 1 filled pinch children, authorities said.

Michael Austin Ford, 58, of West Valley City, a Salt Lake City suburb, was ordered detained without bail by Magistrate Judge Cecilia M. Romero. She said successful nan detention bid that Ford was a threat "to nan full community."

A national nationalist defender assigned to nan lawsuit did not instantly respond to a petition for comment. On Friday, nan lawyer revenge a mobility asking that Ford's detention without bail beryllium reconsidered.

He was charged successful a national expansive assemblage indictment returned Feb. 21 pinch 2 counts of arson of a conveyance of an statement receiving national funds, nan U.S. Attorney's Office for nan District of Utah said Saturday.

Ford faces a parallel lawsuit successful Salt Lake City District Court that includes charges of aggravated arson, aggravated kid maltreatment and obstructing justice. An relation that provides nationalist defenders for authorities tribunal defendants did not instantly respond to a petition for comment.

Federal prosecutors opportunity he was connected nan occupation arsenic a autobus driver for Salt Lake City’s Granite School District erstwhile he group occurrence to buses connected Feb. 24, 2022 and April 7, 2023, according to nan indictment successful his national case.

In nan 2022 incident, 42 schoolhouse children were connected board, national prosecutors said successful a filing past period that argues nan suspect should beryllium held without bail. State prosecutors said location were 66 children connected board.

A territory spokesperson told NBC News connection KSL of Salt Lake City that nan students connected committee attended a adjacent secondary schoolhouse and that nary were injured.

In that blaze, national prosecutors said, nan suspect continued driving arsenic flames grew nether nan dashboard and fume wafted into nan compartment toward nan children. Security video captured nan incident, they said.

"Minutes aft nan Defendant started nan fire, he continues to thrust nan bus, undeterred by some unfastened occurrence and fume billowing past his face," national prosecutors said successful their detention arguments past month.

"The Defendant only stops nan autobus erstwhile children are seen and heard connected video coughing, covering their faces, and complaining astir smoke," prosecutors added.

Before nan 2023 incident, national prosecutors said, nan suspect tampered pinch a video strategy connected committee a autobus he used, attempting to artifact a camera's view. However, nan territory enabled nan strategy to grounds regardless, and authorities were capable to spot imagery from that incident, too, according to KSL, which cites charging documents revenge by authorities prosecutors.

State prosecutors alleged Ford utilized a "thumb-strike lighter" successful that 2023 incident, and they claimed some fires originated nether nan vehicle's dashboard, KSL reported.

Federal prosecutors described nan root of nan 2 fires for which Ford is charged arsenic an "incendiary device."

The U.S. Attorney's Office said successful its connection Saturday that Ford "was again driving a Granite School District autobus successful postulation erstwhile he was captured connected video igniting a occurrence connected nan bus" successful April 2023.

"Again, Ford continued to thrust nan autobus pinch fume billowing past his face," nan agency said.

In her detainment order, judge Romero expressed "concerns regarding his intelligence state." She cited "the delayed consequence to putting retired nan autobus fire" arsenic good arsenic fires connected to his location and vehicle, reported by prosecutors aft nan 2023 autobus blaze.

Additionally, prosecutors said successful nan detainment filing that Ford "has acknowledged to investigators his engagement successful 3 anterior autobus fires for busses he was driving. These fires occurred successful 2017, 2016, and astir 2001 aliases 2002."

In 2017, a Granite School District autobus occurrence made nationalist news headlines based connected nan spot of on-scene video. The territory told KSL that Ford was driving nan vehicle, but that nary children were connected board.

"For nan 2017 incident, location appears to person been an origination of nan occurrence successful nan beforehand dash area of nan bus, arsenic is nan lawsuit successful nan arsons alleged successful nan Indictment," national prosecutors wrote successful their detention filing past month.

After he was arrested 3 days pursuing nan 2023 fire, police alleged that Ford is connected to 8 fires since 2009. Ford has not been charged successful relationship pinch immoderate different fires too those connected Feb. 24, 2022 and April 7, 2023.

The territory said it placed Ford connected time off arsenic he was being investigated earlier his arrest, and that it yet terminated him.

District spokesperson Ben Horsley told KSL that Ford had passed "appropriate inheritance checks arsenic required by law" earlier he was hired successful 1998.

Dennis Romero

Dennis Romero is simply a breaking news newsman for NBC News Digital.