A TAXI driver said he is “lucky” to be alive after his minibus burst into flames seconds after dropping off his last passenger.
Town cabbie Phillip Schofield was going about his daily job when a burning smell started to fill his taxi as he was driving a woman passenger to Birchill Gardens, in Hartlepool.
The 49-year-old – who 20 minutes before had taken three hearing-impaired youngsters to a special school in Middlesbrough – dropped off the passenger, when smoke started to billow into the cab. Seconds later, as shocked Phillip turned into Chester Road to pull over, flames started flickering from the dashboard.
The dad and grandad jumped out of the taxi as quickly as possible before the vehicle, worth about £11,000, became completely engulfed in flames.
Quick-thinking Phillip had grabbed the in-cab fire extinguisher but his efforts to put out the huge flames were in vain and he telephoned the fire brigade.
A crew from Stranton Fire Brigade soaked the burning taxi in water as devastated Phillip looked on.
Today, the driver told the Mail that he had been “lucky” and he was just so glad the children he takes to school, or in fact any other passengers, were not in the six-year-old vehicle at the time.
The dad-of-three, who lost two-days takings of about £200 in the freak blaze and suffered minor burns to his arms, said: “Thank God there was nobody hurt. I am just so glad the three little children that I do a school run for were not in when this happened, or anyone else for that matter.
“It doesn’t even bear thinking about. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I was damn lucky put it that way.”
Phillip who has been a taxi driver for six years and works for himself, added: “I didn’t think it was anything too serious when I was dropping the lady off in Birchill Gardens. I thought it was going to be something stupid like a belt in the engine going or something.
“I thought I’d get home to Throston and see what was going on, but as I turned onto Chester Road loads of smoke was just pouring out of the dashboard and then flames.
“I got out as quickly as possible and it burst into flames.
“The fire brigade came and said they think it was an electrical fault behind the dash board.”
Phillip, from Linnet Road, Throston, Hartlepool, is now on the hunt for a lease vehicle so that his school-run arrangement is not scuppered.