A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) official said three investigations into crashes relating to school districts, two of which involve a school bus, are ongoing.
During the virtual National Association of State Director of Pupil Transportation Services Conference on Thursday, Michele Beckjord, chief of the NTSB’s Multidisciplinary Investigations Branch in the Office of Highway Safety, provided preliminary information into the three crashes, two of which occurred last fall.
NTSB released a preliminary report last month on a multi-vehicle crash that took place on Nov. 19 in Big Spring, Texas on Interstate 20. A 2016 Ford pickup truck traveling in the wrong direction struck a motorcoach head-on. The motorcoach was occupied by the driver, two adults, and 37 high school band members who were on their way to a playoff football game.
Related: Texas Charter Bus Crash Kills Three
The motorcoach was reportedly the lead vehicle in a caravan of three motorcoaches owned and operated by the Andrews Independent School District. Beckjord noted that the weather and road conditions were dry and the posted speed limit was 75 mph. Instead of a standard bed, the truck had a low steel flatbed and was traveling in the wrong direction. It struck the motorcoach head-on, while also hitting the second bus in the caravan.
Following the collision, the first motorcoach traveled into the median and struck the cable barrier before coming to a stop. The 59-year-old driver of the Ford pickup, the 69-year-old motorcoach driver, and an adult occupant of the bus, reportedly the band director, were all fatally killed. One adult and 36 students sustained injuries. No one on the second motorcoach bus traveling directly behind the first was injured.
All aspects of the crash are reportedly under investigation and the NTSB is working to determine probable causes.
Then in December, a one-vehicle school bus crash took place in Monaville, Texas. Beckjord noted that no preliminary report had been issued at the time of her presentation. But a 59-year-old school bus driver, a bus aide, and four school bus passengers were traveling along a rural road with one lane in each direction, when the driver reportedly lost control, departed the roadway, overcorrected, and the bus tipped over, coming to rest on its side. The bus aide was reportedly ejected from the vehicle and killed.
The driver and three student passengers were transported to a local hospital. Beckjord added that onboard cameras are being reviewed to see what caused the school bus to roll on its side, as well as the use or nonuse of occupant restraints, as there were seatbelts on the bus.
A preliminary report by the NTSB on the Decatur, Tennessee school bus crash was previously reported on by School Transportation News. The crash took place on Oct. 27, 2020, when a school bus was traveling in the southbound lane of a two-lane highway. The school bus was struck by a Freightliner truck, which had reportedly drifted off the right edge of the payment and the driver had attempted to steer back onto the roadway when the driver reportedly lost control and crossed into the lane and into the path of the oncoming school bus.
The bus collided with the right side of the truck, between the rear axle and the front of the utility box, while also hitting the right side of the boom arm. The school bus reportedly came to a rest in the southbound lane, while the truck continued across the highway into the trees.
In addition to the 53-year-old school bus driver, 22 K-12 students were on board at the time. The school bus driver and a 7-year-old student passenger seated directly behind were trapped in the bus and had to be extricated. Both died from their injuries. Eight other student passengers were transported to local hospitals, and the truck driver was treated at the scene. The school bus was reportedly not equipped with seatbelts.