Police: Truck driver says he was distracted before crash

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Fatal Texas accident kills 4 college softball players
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Police: Truck driver says he was distracted before crash
In this photo provided by The National Transportation Safety Board, officials examine part of the wreckage involved in a fatal highway accident in Davis, Okla. The collision late Friday badly damaged the driver's side of the North Central Texas College Softball team bus driven by a coach with 15 players aboard as they returned from a scrimmage against Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla. Four women's softball players were killed. (AP Photo/National Transportation Safety Board)
In this photo provided by The National Transportation Safety Board, Mary Pat McKay documents part of the wreckage involved in a fatal highway accident in Davis, Okla. The collision late Friday badly damaged the driver's side of the North Central Texas College Softball team bus driven by a coach with 15 players aboard as they returned from a scrimmage against Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla. Four women's softball players were killed. (AP Photo/National Transportation Safety Board)
Doris Floyd, from left, Sherry Smith, Wendy Perkins and Susan Decker attend at a candlelight vigil at North Central Texas College in Gainesville, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, for four members of the school softball team who were killed Friday in a highway collision while returning from a scrimmage game in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol identified the four players killed as Meagan Richardson, Brooke Deckard, Katelynn Woodlee and Jaiden Pelton. All were from North Texas. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
People attend at a candlelight vigil at North Central Texas College in Gainesville, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, for four members of the school softball team who were killed in a highway collision while returning from a scrimmage game in Oklahoma two days before. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
People attend at a candlelight vigil at North Central Texas College in Gainesville, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, for four members of the school softball team who were killed in a highway collision while returning from a scrimmage game in Oklahoma two days before. (AP Photo/Rex C. Curry)
"Gainesville, we need to be there for these ladies, now and always." Crowd now singing along to 'Amazing Grace' http://t.co/CRuhawrQZJ
There are several other softball teams in the crowd who compete against the Lady Lions showing their respect. http://t.co/yBUUWaVS7K
Hundreds are starting to light candles, for the victims and survivors of the NCTC bus crash. #PrayersForNCTC http://t.co/4Ujp5rK7u1
Several Blue Ridge HS juniors tearfully tell us 'Brookie' was a friend to everyone . #PrayersForNCTC @wfaachannel8 http://t.co/WGBiZadDpz
At a game in Cartersville, GA they released 4 balloons to remember our 4 lost and had a moment of silence. Thank you! http://t.co/VD0fN5wTIl
Brooke, Katelynn, Meagan and Jaiden are truly our Angels in the Infield. They will never be forgotten. #nctc http://t.co/sb1BV0QkhC
Very emotional vigil for former Wylie High School softball pitcher Meagan Richardson. #PrayersForNCTC http://t.co/aWk5n0UQNo
Prayer vigil for Meagan Richardson and her family. She was killed in a bus crash last nite. #PrayersForNCTC http://t.co/7hbvaKqSm0
Prayer vigil for Meagan Richardson. She was tragically killed in a bus crash last night. #PrayersForNCTC http://t.co/owEy48pIBt
Friends, family, softball players gathering for Brooke Deckard vigil in Blue Ridge. #PrayersForNCTC @CBSDFW http://t.co/ZFxAJlwk6d
Former #NCTC softball teammates show up together wearing team t-shirts in solidarity #PrayersForNCTC http://t.co/chXDGsZlMg
Black and blue ribbons on every corner in Blue Ridge to honor the memory of Brooke Deckard. #PrayersForNCTC http://t.co/MBaZNFkG5N
Vigil underway #PrayersForNCTC http://t.co/6iuZaD5H2v
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A tractor-trailer that collided with a bus and killed four members of a Texas community college women's softball team drove straight through an interstate median without any signs of braking or trying to avoid the collision, federal investigators said Sunday.

The truck was traveling northbound on Interstate 35 near Davis, Oklahoma, on Friday night. As the roadway gently curved to the right, the truck continued straight. It traveled about 820 feet through the median and struck the southbound bus carrying 15 members of the North Central Texas College team and driven by their coach, said Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Even after smashing into the driver side of the bus, the truck continued straight for another 300 feet, crossing the southbound lanes and barreling through and uprooting trees, Sumwalt said.

Asked if that suggested the driver was sleeping or otherwise indisposed, Sumwalt said: "That's going to be the million dollar question."

"Was it something with the vehicle or was it something with the operator of the vehicle?" he said.

Sumwalt said investigators found no problems with the truck's brakes, but were still trying to download the truck's data recorder, which could show if the brakes were applied.

Investigators were interviewing the softball players Sunday.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol, which is conducting the criminal investigation, said Sunday that the truck driver, Russell Staley, 53, of Saginaw, Texas, told investigators he was distracted.

"He (Staley) said he was distracted by something in the cabin," said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Ronnie Hampton, who declined to say what the distraction was. He said investigators don't necessarily agree with Staley's explanation.

No charges are pending against Staley.

Hampton said investigators have obtained search warrants to collect evidence from the truck and the bus.

The team was returning from a scrimmage against Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol identified the four players killed as Meagan Richardson, 19; Brooke Deckard, 20; Katelynn Woodlee, 18; and Jaiden Pelton 20. All were from North Texas.

A dozen others were injured although all but two have been treated and released. Oklahoma University Medical Center said Bailey Buchanan, 18, was upgraded Sunday from critical to stable condition. Rachel Hitt, 19, remained in fair condition at Norman Regional Hospital, a spokeswoman said.

Community members attended a prayer vigil Sunday night at the college's Gainesville campus, just south of the Oklahoma/Texas border.

Staley was driving for Quickway Transportation of Nashville, Tennessee.

"Trusting in God's grace, we hope to one day join the college in properly memorializing these ladies lives and their legacy," CEO William Prevost said in a statement posted to the company's website Sunday.

The statement didn't refer to the truck driver.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records show Quickway had not been involved in a fatal accident in at least the past two years through Aug. 22. The company hadn't faced federal safety-related penalties in at least six years, based on available records. Quickway has 327 registered trucks and 436 drivers.

The company's out-of-service rate for safety violations - those that would lead a driver to be pulled off the road - was 7.5 percent, better than the national average of 20.7 percent, according to FMCSA.

Of 51 violations recorded in the past 24-month period, there were two instances of using a hand-held mobile device while driving. During that same period, there were no drug or alcohol violations.

Nationally, crashes involving a large truck or bus killed 4,281 people in 2013, little changed from the number of deaths in each of the previous three years.

Four Dead In College Softball Bus Crash


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