By ROSANNA WEAVER — One of the three busses that transported Northwestern High School students to New York City this weekend caught fire today on the New Jersey Turnpike. The students were headed home. No students were injured but many lost their possessions, including instruments. The fire temporarily shut down all lanes in the southbound direction of the New Jersey Turnpike, just north of Route 168. The incident happened just before noon. The students returned home safely to Northwestern High late Sunday afternoon.

Approximately 175 students from Northwestern High School’s Visual and Performing Arts Program (VPA), had travelled to New York City for the weekend. It was on their return that, according to initial student reports, a tire came off one of the three busses and it burst into flames.

Students are texting friends that they have lost all their possessions, including laptops. The bus that caught on fire was the band bus, so instruments were also lost.

For many the annual trip to New York City is one of the highlights of the year. This year the students saw the musical “Wicked” and visited a Jim Henson exhibit. The VPA program is named for and supported by the Jim Henson Legacy. Henson was an alumni of Northwestern High School.

Students in the program, a bit of a school within a school, major in music, dance, theatre, visual arts and television production. Their program includes an extra hour of classes, and many evening performances. Northwestern High School is one of the largest high schools in the state of Maryland, with 2,576 students. Over 70 percent of the students attending the school are eligible for the Free and Reduced Meals (FARMs) program.

Update: The PTSA has set up a GoFundMe page to help with costs.