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NTSB Issues Preliminary Report on Deadly Pennsylvania Turnpike Bus Crash


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its preliminary report on the deadly tour bus crash that tragically killed 5 people along the Pennsylvania Turnpike early last month.

Tour Bus Veered Off PA Turnpike, Hit Embankment, Rolled onto Side

The January 5th crash occurred as 61 passengers, including several children, were traveling aboard a Z&D Tours bus on their way to Cincinnati, Ohio from New Jersey.

According to the NTSB, the westbound motorcoach was heading down a 3% grade on a curved section of the roadway in Mount Pleasant Township, when for reasons that remain unclear, the vehicle suddenly swerved left just before 3:30 a.m. The bus then veered toward the right, careened across the roadway and right shoulder, and collided with a steep embankment.

The vehicle ultimately rolled onto its side and slid to a stop, coming to rest diagonally in the westbound lanes and shoulders, with its underside facing oncoming traffic.

18-Wheelers, Passenger Car Caught Up in Chain-Reaction Crash

At that point, the bus was struck by a FedEx Ground 18-wheeler, which came to rest blocking the right lane and median shoulder.

Another 18-wheeler operated by UPS proceeded to collide with both the FedEx truck and the overturned motorcoach. A 2007 Mercedes-Benz passenger car then steered off the road to avoid the wreck and stopped next to the first UPS truck.

A second UPS truck also attempted to avoid the accident by swerving right, crossed the road and the right shoulder, and traveled partly up the earthen embankment.  That 18-wheeler then proceeded to strike the Mercedes-Benz before coming to rest between the embankment and the car.

Z&D Tours Accident Left 5 Dead, Including 9-Year-Old Girl

The bus driver and two passengers, a 35-year-old woman and 9-year-old girl, were ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. The driver and co-driver of the first UPS truck were also killed.

Fifty-nine others aboard the bus were taken to area hospitals for injuries that ranged from minor to critical. The co-driver of the FedEx truck also suffered minor injuries. The FedEx driver, the driver and co-driver of the second UPS truck, and the car’s driver and two passengers all escaped the crash unharmed.

According to the NTSB, the accident occurred as light snow was falling, but the roadway had been treated with salt.

While the posted speed limit was 70 mph, an advisory warns westbound traffic of a 55-mph speed limit for an upcoming left curve. So far, it’s not known how fast the bus or any of the other vehicles involved in last month’s crash might have been traveling.

Pennsylvania Turnpike Bus Crash Remains Under Investigation

All aspects of the accident remain under investigation, and the NTSB continues to gather records on the commercial drivers involved in the wreck. Other areas under evaluation include occupant protection, human performance, vehicle performance, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s snow- and ice-removal procedures, collision avoidance technology installed on the three truck-tractors, and the safety culture of Z&D Tours.

The NTSB is also working alongside the Pennsylvania State Police and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to compile a complete and accurate account of the crash. UPS, FedEx Ground, the Turnpike Commission, and Daimler Trucks North America are also parties to the investigation.

Once a probable cause has been identified, the NTSB will issue a final report with recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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