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Bus blaze fails to stop fans going to Oxegen

Music fans travelling to the Oxegen festival had a lucky escape yesterday when their coach burst into flames on the M50 -- and caused hours of traffic chaos for motorists.

The group of 43 youngsters, aged from 17 upwards, managed to jump out of the coach, which was taking them from their home town of Newry, Co Down to the Punchestown festival, just minutes before it erupted into flames on the country's busiest motorway.

Gardai had to close the southbound lane of the motorway, putting in place diversions at Finglas and Ballymun.

Firemen from Dublin battled the blaze in the bus, which was parked up on the hard shoulder, near the Ballymun exit.

The youngsters from Newry said they had noticed smoke rising through the floor of the bus just minutes before it burst into flames.

"We were sitting on the bus and smoke just kept coming up," said 18-year-old Michael Deane. "We thought the chairs had caught fire, but it wasn't them, it was just coming from the floor. We could feel our feet getting hot and then we pulled over and we all ran out and it went up in flames."

Witnesses said the flames reached upwards of 10ft. Luggage, including tents and concert tickets, was destroyed.

"It just went on fire," said 17-year-old Jade Kimmins. "I mean, the flames were as high as that pole. It was a shock."

Gardai saiday it seemed likely the fire started in the engine and spread to the rest of the coach.

The blaze started at about 1.10pm and the motorway was reopened soon after 3pm.

The fans were subsequently taken to the concert by a replacement bus from Kildare.

However, there were knock-on delays to traffic heading to Dublin Airport and the port tunnel. Delays continued afterwards for several hours on the M50 northbound.

Learning of the youngsters' plight, Oxegen organisers MCD arranged for replacement tickets and tents to be given to the Newry fans when they arrived.

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