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NTSB Details Sequence of Events Leading Up to Deadly PA Turnpike Tour Bus Crash


The Z&D Tours bus involved in a deadly crash along the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Pittsburgh apparently passed a FedEx truck moments before triggering the chain of events that would leave five people dead and dozens of others injured early Sunday morning.

During a media briefing  yesterday evening, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Jennifer Homendy confirmed that the Cincinnati, Ohio-bound tour bus had passed the 18-wheeler while traveling along a curvy, downhill section of the turnpike (Interstate 76) in Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County.

The driver lost control of the packed vehicle on a curve just “down the road,” hit a concrete median barrier, went up an embankment, and flipped onto the passenger side, blocking the westbound lanes of the highway. The FedEx truck was unable to stop and collided with the stricken vehicle.

Bus Driver, 2 Passengers Ejected from Vehicle

The 58-year-old bus driver and two passengers, a 9-year-old girl and a 35-year-old woman, were ejected and died at the scene.

Two men, ages 48 and 53, died when their UPS truck collided with the wreckage. A Mercedes-Benz then struck the side of that 18-wheeler before being trapped by a second UPS truck.

Nearly 60 people were taken to hospitals in Mt. Pleasant, Somerset, and Pittsburgh, including multiple children. Although all of the injured victims were expected to survive, two were in critical condition.

NTSB Conducting “Wide-Ranging, Complex Investigation”

About 20 NTSB investigators are now working to determine exactly what caused the Pennsylvania Turnpike crash. According to Homendy, State Police have recovered an engine control module from the tour bus, which investors expect will provide information on engine performance, throttle position, speed, brake application and possibly steering input. An outward facing camera was also removed from one of the 18-wheelers.

While the NTSB investigation could take up to two years, Homendy indicated that a preliminary report would be issued in roughly 10 days.

“This is going to be a very wide-ranging, complex investigation, and we’re just starting,” she said. “This is day one.”

Z&D Tours Bus Lacked Seat Belts

Homendy also confirmed that the Z&D Tours bus did not have seat belts, despite repeated calls from the NTSB that federal regulations be updated to require the devices on motor coaches.

“It is hard when you see accident after accident where a death or serious injury could have been prevented by a seat, lap shoulder belt in particular,” she said. “We keep recommending it, we’re not going to stop. … It’s frustrating and it’s devastating.”

NTSB Looking at Bus Driver, Road Conditions on Pennsylvania Turnpike

The NTSB’s investigation will also focus on the bus driver, as well as the road conditions at the time of the accident.

Christopher Turner, director of crash and data programs for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, told the Associated Press that driver behavior does contribute to the vast majority of motor vehicle accidents.

“This is not a typical incident — buses overturning is not a common occurrence,” Turner said. “But obviously the risk is tremendous.”

In an interview with the New York Times, the owner of New Jersey-based Z&D Tours insisted that weather was to blame for the deadly crash, noting that it was snowing at the time. While the roadway was wet from snow, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission asserts that it had been treated with salt several hours earlier and wasn’t especially slick.

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If you or someone you love were injured in the Pennsylvania tour bus crash, please call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form.

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