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NTSB announces preliminary conclusions in bus crash probe

Many news stories of motor vehicle accidents end with a statement that the incident is “under further investigation.” Unfortunately, the results of the further investigation are rarely published. In a rare exception, the National Transportation Safety Board has announced its preliminary conclusions of a probe into a deadly bus-truck accident on I-70 near Mount Pleasant.

In addition to disclosing its preliminary conclusions, the NTSB said that it will continue the probe for a period between 12 and eighteen months to ensure that the causes of the accident are verified and that all measures that could have prevented the accident have been thoroughly reviewed.

The accident occurred on a broad, downhill curve on westbound I-70. The overall speed limit is 70 mph, but signs at the top of the curve lower the speed limit for westbound vehicles to 55 mph. A west-bound tour bus entered the curve and veered onto the median. It then veered to right and crossed all west-bound travel lanes before colliding with the embankment adjacent to the freeway.

The tour bus rolled onto its side and blocked most of the width of the westbound traffic lanes. A FedEx Ground semi tractor-trailer hit the bus. The bus and the FedEx semi were then struck by a westbound UPS tractor-trailer. A Mercedes-Benz sedan then hit the UPS tractor-trailer and was pinned between the two semis. Both occupants of the UPS truck died the collision. The driver of the tour bus and three of his passengers also died in the accident.

The NTSB said that it will be evaluating the driving records of the two truck drivers, occupant protection devices, vehicle performance and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s snow and ice removal techniques. The NTSB is also planning to evaluate collision avoidance technology that was installed on the three commercial vehicles. It expects this “deep dive” investigation to take almost two years.

The NTSB investigation will not establish liability, but its findings about causation could be enormously valuable to anyone who is considering seeking damages from the bus company, FedEx or UPS.