The National Transportation Safety Board is wrapping up an independent safety investigation into the fatality of a middle school student struck by a pickup truck during a morning school bus pickup.
NTSB spokeswoman Jennifer Gabris explained that the agency is concerned about the safety of school bus routes and stops in general. The NTSB investigation into the May 12 incident, which occurred about 50 miles northwest of Madison, Wisconsin, is being coordinated through the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office.
“The investigation will focus on issues relating to the safety of school bus routes and stops, driver behavior while approaching stopped school buses, and technologies to prevent or mitigate the severity of crashes while children are entering or exiting from school buses,” Garbis told School Transportation News.
STN previously reported that a School District of Reedsburg bus was stopped facing westbound on two-lane State Highway 23/33 the morning of May 12 as it prepared to receive 13-year-old student rider Evelyn Gurney. It was not known if the 2016 Blue Bird school bus had its red lights activated and stop arm deployed when a 2010 Ford F-150 pickup truck traveling behind the bus failed to slow down in time and stop. The truck swerved to the right, sideswiped the right rear side of the school bus, and then struck Gurney. She died at the scene.
The state highway has paved shoulders with a speed limit of 55 mph, Garbis added.
Kristin Poland, the deputy director NTSB’s Office of Highway Safety, added that an investigation into a 2018 triple fatality at a school bus crossing in Rochester, Indiana “highlighted challenges with school bus loading zones on high-speed roadways and lack of vehicle-based technology to prevent certain collisions, among other things.
“The circumstances of the Wisconsin crash can give us additional information to help prevent school bus loading zone crashes or mitigate the severity in the future,” she continued in an email statement to STN.
NTSB investigators were expected to remain on the scene through Thursday. A preliminary report is expected in three weeks, with a final report coming within the next 12 to 24 months. NTSB is also seeking additional witnesses of the incident to share any relevant information via email.
Meanwhile, students and staff at Webb Middle School, where Gurney attended, as well as residents of the Reedsburg area were asked to honor her memory by wearing blue, the color of Gurney’s youth hockey team.
Classmates of Gurney set up a GoFundMe page, which as of this report had raised over $90,000.
Ryan Gray contributed to this report.
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