nb_cid nb_clickOther -tt-nb this.style.behavior='url(#default#homepage)';this.setHomePage('http://www.aol.com/?mtmhp=acm50ieupgradebanner_112313 network-banner-empty upgradeBanner
14
Search AOL Mail
AOL Mail
Video
Video
AOL Favorites
Favorites
Menu

FedEx semi didn't brake before California crash

BY FENIT NIRAPPIL AND JOAN LOWY

ORLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Federal safety investigators say the driver of a Fedex tractor-trailer that struck a bus carrying high school students didn't appear to brake before a fiery collision that left 10 dead.

National Transportation Safety Board member Mark Rosekind said Saturday that the truck left no tire marks as it careened across a median and slammed into the bus taking the students to a college tour in Northern California.

Investigators also interviewed a witness who said the truck was already on fire before it crossed the median.

The truck and bus exploded into towering flames after Thursday's crash, making it difficult for investigators to determine whether a fire started in the truck. But Rosekind says investigators plan to look at a blood test and other physical evidence to make that determination.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A couple said a FedEx tractor-trailer was already on fire when it careened across a median, sideswiped their car and slammed into a bus carrying high school students, adding a new twist to the investigation of a crash that killed 10 people.

Initial reports by police indicated the truck swerved to avoid a sedan that was traveling in the same direction in this town about 100 miles north of Sacramento, then went across the median. There was no mention of the truck being on fire.

But Joe and Bonnie Duran, the Seattle-area couple who were in the car, said, like the bus, they were northbound on Interstate 5 on Thursday afternoon. Bonnie Duran, who was driving, told KNBC-TV in Los Angeles that flames were coming from the lower rear of the truck cab.

Witnesses: FedEx Truck Was On Fire Before Head-On Crash

"I just looked to the left, and there it was coming through right at me at an angle. I can tell I wasn't going to outrun him, so I just kind of turned to the right and he hit me," she said. "It was in flames as it came through the median. ... It wasn't like the whole thing was engulfed. It was coming up wrapping around him."

The couple was not seriously injured. KNBC-TV reported that the Durans would be formally interviewed Saturday by the California Highway Patrol before flying home.

Officer Lacey Heitman, a spokeswoman for California Highway Patrol, said she could not confirm if the truck was on fire before the collision until all evidence was gathered. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said the agency is investigating the condition of the truck before the collision, including if it was on fire. FedEx spokeswoman Bonnie Harrison wouldn't comment on the reports the truck was on fire.

When the tractor-trailer collided with the charter bus carrying high school students to a college campus tour in California's redwood county, the vehicles exploded into towering flames and billowing black smoke. Bodies recovered from the bus were charred beyond recognition.

Five students from the Los Angeles area, three chaperones and the truck and bus drivers died in the crash. Dozens were injured, and several remained hospitalized Saturday, including at least one in critical condition.

As part of what's expected to be a lengthy and broad investigation, federal transportation authorities are examining whether fire safety measures they previously recommended for motor coaches could have allowed more of the 48 bus occupants to escape unharmed.

In a briefing at the start of the investigation, the NTSB's Mark Rosekind said his agency will not only look into the cause of the crash, but what regulators can do to stop any similar ones from happening in the future. Fire safety is one of six areas the NTSB plans to investigate, partly because it has been longstanding concern of the agency.

After a 2005 bus fire killed 23 nursing home residents escaping Hurricane Rita in Texas, the NTSB called for safety standards that could make buses less vulnerable to fire, including improved protection of fuel tanks. More recently, the NTSB says buses must have sophisticated suppression systems to control fires, much as high-rise buildings have sprinkler systems.

"Fire suppression holds the greatest potential for saving lives, reducing costs and minimizing damage," according to a recent NTSB list of its safety priorities for all modes of transportation. Existing fire standards dating to the 1970s apply to small fire sources such as lit cigarettes, but they do not apply to large fires that can start outside the bus.

The NTSB, which investigates accidents and their causes, has no authority to require safety changes it recommends.

But a bill passed by Congress in June 2012 directed the Department of Transportation to conduct research and tests on ways to prevent fires or mitigate the effects, among other safety issues. That included evacuating passengers, as well automatic fire suppression, smoke suppression and improved fire extinguishers. Representatives of the bus industry told Congress that manufacturers were increasingly and voluntarily adding such features.

The law suggests the department issue new standards in those areas within three years if the secretary of transportation decides they are "reasonable, practicable and appropriate." Former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator Joan Claybrook told the Associated Press that the bus industry fought with safety advocates "like cats and dogs" to prevent "hard deadlines" for the new regulations.

So far, the government has not proposed any new standards related to passenger evacuation in event of a fire or other fire-related issues, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which lobbied Congress for tougher motor-coach safety standards.

"The legislation includes many mandates to the Transportation Department on many aspects of safety, some of them easy, others not so easy," said Jacqueline Gillan, president of the safety advocacy group. "Nonetheless, they all need to be done, and there have been no regulations even on the easy ones."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, recently initiated a two-year contract to develop and evaluate test procedures to assess fire detection, suppression and flammability of exterior materials for motor coaches, the safety advocacy group said. The research project, headed by the Southwest Research Institute, is to focus on engine and wheel-well fires.

A 2009 study commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimated that 160 bus fires occurred each year from such non-collision related causes and 95 percent did not result in injury or death.

The 44 Southern California high school students on the bus in Thursday's crash, many hoping to become the first in their families to attend college, were on a free trip arranged by Humboldt State University.

The victims included a recently engaged couple from Los Angeles and a newlywed from Orange County chaperoning the trip. Among the students was an identical twin from Riverside whose sister was on another bus that arrived safely at Humboldt.

Silverado Stages, the San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based company that owns the charter bus involved in the crash, has a strong safety record, and it has said it is fully cooperating with the investigation. It is unclear what sort of fire-safety equipment the bus in Thursday's crash had, and the company couldn't be reached for comment Saturday.

As part of its investigation, the NTSB said it is trying to determine whether the FedEx driver might have fallen asleep or suffered a health problem and whether there were mechanical issues with the truck. The agency also is evaluating whether there should have been a barrier on the median to help prevent head-on collisions. Barriers are required when medians are less than 50 feet wide; this one was 60.

-----

Joan Lowy reported from Washington, D.C. Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
Dave April 12 2014 at 5:51 PM

This makes me wonder what kind of cargo the truck was carrying. They need to look at whether someone had shipped an illegal or dangerous substance that may have caused a fire or explosion on board. In this day and age I wouldn't discount anything. Also, there should have been some sort of K-rail or median divider on a highway like that. They're everywhere in Southern California, and they do work. This has been a very sad week for all those involved in this tragedy, and my thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
3 replies
Phyllis April 12 2014 at 6:03 PM

If the truck was on fire I would doubt very seriously if the driver was asleep, I would think there was something very flammable on the truck and might have exploded causing the truck to swerve. Don't blame the driver until you know more about it, and he was probably a poor kid earning a living since AOL wants to put people in categories. No rich man going to drive a fedEx truck guarantee that. My condolences to all, God bless the injured and all of the families involved that includes the FedEx driver.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
read Phyllis April 12 2014 at 6:24 PM

Phyllis

21 minutes ago

If the truck was on fire I would doubt very seriously if the driver was asleep, I would think there was something very flammable on the truck and might have exploded causing the truck to swerve. Don't blame the driver until you know more about it, and he was probably a poor kid earning a living since AOL wants to put people in categories. No rich man going to drive a fedEx truck guarantee that. My condolences to all, God bless the injured and all of the families involved that includes the FedEx driver.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
tdiplaci April 12 2014 at 6:01 PM

The article said the fire was coming out from under the cab of the truck, not the rear load carrying part. The fire could have caused the driver to pass out and not be in control of the truck. Such a sad incident for all involved.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
liquidwallpaper April 12 2014 at 6:13 PM

My heart breaks for the families that lost loved ones to such a terrible accident.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Liebchken April 12 2014 at 6:04 PM

That area is "hilly"? So a truckdriver should take even more care to drive cautiously, using his "jake" brake as much as possible in order to not have "hot" brakes aka brake fade. Going too fast possibly? A delivery truck?.....never!!!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
drepke April 12 2014 at 6:12 PM

I hope they discover the cause of the tragic crash and take steps to lessen the chance it will happen again.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
kolblh April 12 2014 at 5:53 PM

Drive like your life depended on it. It does. You just don't know what can happen at any moment. Tragic, ten lives in an instant. Condolences to family and friends.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
imdhunk April 12 2014 at 6:08 PM

As a seasoned driver I caution young drivers to always be vigilant as to what is happening around them not just the driver in front of you.... Look down the highway are people using their brake lights and you don't know why? you need to pull back and SLOW down... avoid the "dog packs" on freeways because if there are sudden stops you'll rear end someone or be rear ended yourself... keep a lot of space between you and the other driver. Being in a hurry to an important engagement is NO justification for speed

Flag Reply +13 rate up
2 replies
Joseph imdhunk April 12 2014 at 6:35 PM

Fantastic remark , you drivers out there take this seriously to avoid accedents .

Flag Reply +5 rate up
jomskt imdhunk April 12 2014 at 6:45 PM

I HAVE TO REPLY TO YOU IMDHUNK. EVERYONE SHOULD BE CAREFUL WHEN THEY DRIVE NOT JUST THE YOUNG ONES. OLDER ONES AND ALSO TRUCKERS THAT HAVE MANY ACCIDENTS LIKE THIS ONE. IT IS STRANGE THAT ONLY ONE CAR THAT WAS INVOLVED IN THIS ACCIDENT SAW ANYTHING. THAT IS WHAT I AM READING. TRUCKERS DRIVE WAY TOOOO MANY HOURS. 97% OF DRIVERS DRIVE TO CLOSE IN AND OUT OF TOWN. I SEE IT EVERY DAY. ALL THE MONEY THAT IS SPENT ON OTHER THINGS----MY IDEA IS TO PUT A CAMERA UP SEVERAL SPOTS IN EVERY TOWN AND GET THE PEOPLE THAT SPEED BY A PHOTO AND MAYBE WE WOULD NOT HAVE ALL THE TAXES AND LESS ACCIDENTS. THE LAWS NEED TO CHANGE. HOW VERY TERRIBLE FOR THE FAMILIES THAT LOST LOVED ONES IN THIS CASE. MAY GOD BLESS THEM.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
atrk4u April 12 2014 at 5:52 PM

I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF THE TRUCK HAD ONE OF THOSE DIESEL FIRED , C.A.R.B REQUIRED SMOG CONTROL FILTERS . I HAVE HEARD OF THESE THINGS CATCHING FIRE BEFORE.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
3 replies
padiwagn April 12 2014 at 6:06 PM

How Tratic for all parties concerned. What caused the tractor fire? What made the driver go across the median? We can not imagine the horror that the surviving couple must have felt when they say the truck coming at them. kolblh said it best: Always drive as if your life depended on it and it surely does. Look for the unexpected, don't drink and drive, lay off the cell phone and for the love of God don't text while driving. Be alert at all times. It's a must. Sympathies to the grieving families..

Flag Reply +8 rate up
aol~~ 1209600

Voting...

More From Our Partners