A wedding party’s bus ‘literally exploded’ — but the photos were epic

(McKaila Hanna Lifestyle Photography)

Okay, in hindsight, there were some warning signs.

To start with, the party bus headed to the wedding was “super warm” when everyone boarded it, said McKaila Hanna, a wedding photographer who was shooting the day. That’s not particularly surprising; they were in Iowa, and people often have their heat cranked up, she said. But then those on the bus asked the driver to turn on the air conditioning.

“And that’s kind of when things started to go south,” Hanna said.

The party bus was headed to a wedding ceremony, a trip it would complete. But not long after the bus arrived at the church, it became the scene of a fire, said Hanna, who documented some of the ordeal. Don’t worry, though — this story has an okay ending, at least for the bride and groom and their photographer. Probably not so much for the bus, which had a really rough day.

Hanna recounted the near-disaster in a phone interview with The Washington Post, saying that after the request for air conditioning, the bus grew so cold that the passengers — who were traveling to the ceremony at the Little Brown Church in the Vale in Nashua, Iowa — asked for the heat again. The driver said he would turn it back on but was unsuccessful.

“And then we started to get a lot of smoke, it was almost like an exhaust smoke, kind of halfway until we got there,” Hanna said. “It was so smoky by the time we got there. It was pretty rough.”

According to Hanna, the bride and groom and their groomsmen and bridesmaids were riding on the bus when the problems began.

The driver got the group to the church. But after the trip, which took about 45 minutes, black smoke began to fill the vehicle, said Hanna, who told those on board to get off — immediately.

She and her husband, the second wedding photographer that day, ushered people off as quickly as they could.

Hanna said she was talking to the bride, standing a few feet from the bus, when she heard “a really loud pop.”

“It was apparently one of the tires, basically succumbed to the heat, and it popped it,” she said. “So that’s when the fire started up, is right then. It pretty much did explode into a fire.”

Let’s check in with the groom, 29-year-old Shane McCollow, to see how he described it.

“It literally exploded,” McCollow told the Des Moines Register. “It sounded like a gunshot.”

That is how McCollow and his bride, Krissi, ended up posing for wedding pictures in front of a bus in flames, with black smoke billowing up. Those in the photos are smiling, with some giving thumbs up. Hanna said she considered the fire part of the couple’s wedding day story and told them that they needed pictures of it.

“So we stopped and we took a couple of pictures,” she said.

You can see some of them on the photographer’s Facebook page.

“Interesting unplanned entrance to a wedding [ceremony] today,” she wrote. “Little Brown Church in the Vale survived and The Nashua fire department saved the day!”

“They’re incredible pictures,” the groom told the Register.

Here’s the Register, with a little more information from the bus company on how this happened:

Nick Sorbe, who is the owner and manager of the Cedar Falls-based Dolly’s Party Bus service that owns the bus, told the Register on Monday that the fire was caused by a leak from one of the bus’ brake chambers, which created the smoke. As it worsened, the bus became overheated and a small fire sparked.

A new bus was immediately sent to Nashua — with Dolly’s waiving all fees, Krissi and Shane said — and transported the group to Beaver Hills Country Club in Cedar Falls for the reception following the ceremony. The couple credits the “fantastic work” provided by the busing service, as well as the local fire department and church staff given the circumstances on their special day.

The bride’s father is captain of fire prevention with the Cedar Falls Fire Department, according to the Register, and he kept everyone back and made sure the fire department was called, Hanna said. Crews blocked off traffic around the church, she said, and some guests had to park their cars out by cornfields and farms.

But, Hanna said, the wedding went on.

“It was a really sweet wedding, and really emotional,” Hanna said. “They’re just a really sweet couple. Very calm, like weirdly calm. I can’t believe they were so calm during the whole situation.”