University student and West Island resident Lauren Fagen was taking her usual route to school Thursday afternoon, getting on the 485 bus in Pierrefonds en route to Lionel Groulx metro station.

As the bus approached the Atwater exit off the Ville Marie Expressway, it slowed down. That’s when she saw – and smelled – the smoke.

“Everybody was very nonchalant about it, and I really wanted to get off the bus but I couldn’t because the door … was trapping us between the bus and [the side of the highway],” she said.

The passengers and bus driver managed to escape from the bus unharmed. Fagen didn't want to wait for someone to open the fire escape and decided to leave through the bus door, despite the risks involved.

Passengers climb out of the bus

Passengers climb out of the bus after it pulled over on the Ville Marie Expressway Thursday, April 23. The bus eventually caught on fire. (Lauren Fagen)

She said she and the other passengers were told to stay close to the bus, but she didn’t want to because she feared it would blow up. The further she got from the bus, the more she felt herself being pulled in by the momentum created by cars whizzing by at full speed, but she still elected to keep her distance.

A 211 bus that was headed to Lionel Groulx stopped on the shoulder and picked her and other passengers up.

The cause of the fire is unknown, but the STM says it started in the back of the bus where the engine component is. There is a firewall separating the bus engine and the passengers, according to an STM spokesperson, which is supposed to stop any fires that start from engulfing the entire bus.

STM bus on fire

Firefighters were called in after an STM bus caught fire on the Ville Marie Expressway Thursday, April 23. (DConlonCTV/Twitter)

The buses are inspected on a nearly-daily basis, and the bus had been in service all day without incident until the fire started, according to the spokesperson.

There will be an investigation into the cause of the fire. Nova Bus, the manufacturer that made the bus, will also take part in the probe.

Fagen said the experience was unpleasant, but that she will inevitably take the bus again.

“It’s just a reality of being a student, or anyone who has to commute downtown from the West Island.”

This story has been edited from an earlier version that indicated the bus was travelling on the 495 Lachine/LaSalle route.