'Thankful they're alive': MSOE wrestling team bus catches fire in Barron County, no one injured

NOW: ’Thankful they’re alive’: MSOE wrestling team bus catches fire in Barron County, no one injured

BARRON COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A scary situation Saturday night, when a coach bus carrying members of the Milwaukee School of Engineering's wrestling team became engulfed in flames in Barron County.

Parents of a sophomore on the team told CBS 58's Ellie Nakamoto-White that the group was heading back to Milwaukee after wrestling in the Northwoods Dual tournament in northern Minnesota. 

"It was about eight o'clock last night, we were just here at home, and we just got a text that says 'hey, just want you to know the bus caught on fire. We’re all okay, we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do next,'” said John Nieberle, the father of 20-year-old Noah Nieberle. "That was kind of the initial communication we received and then it kind of went dark for a while."

They later found out that many of the wrestlers' personal belongings, including cellphones, had been destroyed in the fire.

"He was one of the few who still had a phone, so he was handing out his phone to teammates so they could also contact their parents," John said.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt, which Sue Nieberle, Noah's mother, credits to their quick escape. 

"Kids were running off without their shoes on. Our son, he had no jacket," Sue said. "I thought it was going to just be like a little smoke. But then we got the first picture."

The parents said the group first saw sparks by the back of the bus, which prompted the driver to pull over. Within about 15 minutes, members said the entire coach bus was on fire. 

"My immediate thoughts were sometimes when you're roadside and something happens, that can be a dangerous spot too," Sue said. "I'm so grateful for everyone getting the boys off the bus and getting them home safely. Also, talk about great Wisconsinites! Random people pulled over and asked the boys if they wanted to get in their cars just to warm up. That was really wonderful."

The Barron County Sheriff's Department also came to help out, transporting the team to their building for snacks and a safe place to stay while they waited for another bus to come pick them up, a Facebook post said. 

John added that MSOE officials have told parents they will be replacing the wrestlers' school laptops and other items.

"The boys are thinking, 'oh my gosh' it's midterms week, so all their papers, all their prep for their exams... so hat's off to the school," Sue said. "The boys will come through it together as a team and they're looking forward to getting back to wrestling. We're just going to continue on."

It is still unclear what caused the bus to catch on fire.

The sheriff's department said more details are expected to be released on Monday, Jan. 9. 

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