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Family, friends remember Bethlehem man killed aboard burning bus in Allentown in 2003

By Jaccii Farris, Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 24 2013 03:48:52 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 24 2013 05:21:53 PM CDT

Tragedy struck 10 years ago Monday when a Bethlehem man with cerebral palsy was burned to death aboard a LANTA Vast bus.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Tragedy struck 10 years ago Monday when a Bethlehem man with cerebral palsy was burned to death aboard a LANTA Vast para-transit bus in Allentown.

Kenny Staples, 47, who had cerebral palsy, was trapped on the wheelchair lift during the evacuation and died.

His mother, Dona Reynolds, remembers witnesses saying they heard Staples screaming. The faith she shared with her son, she said, has helped deal with that memory.

"God came down and put his arms around him and the yelling and screaming… that  was Kenny saying, 'Thank God I'm going home,'" said Reynolds.

Investigators determined the fire started in the alternator, and the bus had no fire suppression system.

The company that operated the bus for LANTA is no longer in business, but Armand Greco, LANTA's executive director, said fire suppression systems are now standard, and driver evacuation procedures are more advanced.

"What we did, in particular, was improve the way we do our preventative maintenance program, inspecting all of those conditions that forced the fire," said Greco.

Reynolds said she understands what happened on Bus 191 was an accident.

"I would ride them if I had to. It wouldn't bother me," said Reynolds. "I know nothing could have helped."

Instead of focusing on how Staples died, Reynolds said she spends her days thinking of how he lived.

"Did anyone ever see him not smiling?" said Mark Iampietro, deputy director of the Bethlehem Housing Authority.

Staples' smile and his spirit live on in the hearts of his family and friends, and now on a park bench, located just below the Monocacy Tower apartment where he used to live.

The bench was purposely put in a people place, which Staples' friends said is only fitting. 

"Kenny plunged head first into life. He worked every day, and whether he was trying to do it or not, he influenced a lot of people, myself included, by his attitude," said Iampietro.