The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued its preliminary report on the October school bus crash that resulted in the death of the bus driver and a student on board. A final report is expected later this year.
On Oct. 27, two vehicles collided in the southbound lane of a state highway in Meigs County, Tennessee, located about 50 miles northeast of Chattanooga. The NTSB stated in its preliminary findings released on Thursday that the vehicles were traveling along a two-lane road separated by a double yellow line. The posted speed limit is 55 mph.
A 2013 Thomas Built Buses transit style 78-passenger school bus was traveling southbound carrying 22 students homes that afternoon. At the same time, a 2018 Freightliner truck, used as a service vehicle for a local utility company, was traveling northbound. The truck drifted off the edge of the payment and into a ditch, which reportedly resulted from the driver, identified as Terry Trammell, 56, looking into his mirror. The report did not specify which mirror.
Trammell attempted to steer the vehicle back into the roadway but in doing so crossed the double yellow lines and traveled into the path of the oncoming school bus. The school bus collided with the right side of the truck and came to rest in the southbound lane. Meanwhile, the truck continued across the highway and into trees lining the side of the road.
Lisa Dillard, 53, and 7-year-old passenger Addicyn Grace Medley, who was seated directly behind Dillard, were trapped inside the school bus and had to extricated by emergency personnel. Both were fatally injured, the NTSB stated.
Eight other student passengers on board were transported to a local hospital for treatment, and truck driver Trammell was treated at the scene for minor injuries. As previously reported by School Transportation News, Medley’s brother was among those injured and was discharged from the hospital in a wheelchair. He is undergoing months of physical therapy.
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The school bus was reportedly not equipped with seatbelts. It was, however, equipped with several onboard cameras that NTSB said are being evaluated for preimpact views of the inside and outside of the bus.
In its preliminary investigation, the NTSB concluded that both drivers were properly licensed, though the collection of records on the training and qualifications of both Trammell and Dillard continue.
NTSB said it also continues to gather more information on the behind-the-wheel actions of Trammell, issues related to the protection of the bus occupants, and roadway and pavement maintenance. The crash remains under investigation as the NTSB said it works to determine the probable cause. It is working alongside the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which is reportedly conducting a separate but parallel investigation.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Daimler Trucks North America, the operating company for both Freightliner and Thomas Built Buses brands, are parties to the investigation. NTSB added it intends to issue safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes.