NTSB can't confirm FedEx truck fire claim

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 4/14/2014

The National Transportation Safety Board can't confirm a witness's claim that the FedEx truck involved in the bus crash in Northern California that killed 10 people was already on fire when it crossed the median on Interstate 5, according to an NTSB media briefing on April 13.

There is no evidence to support a “pre-impact fire,” said NTSB spokesman Mark Rosekind. NTSB also could not find evidence at the scene that the truck driver tried to brake before crashing into the bus of high school students. No tire marks were found from the FedEx truck that crashed into a bus of students taking a tour of Humboldt State University.

NTSB investigators are still looking for witnesses to the crash that occurred last Thursday. A video from the driver of a Nissan Altima that was sideswiped by the truck was obtained by the NTSB. The Highway Patrol has supplied a video from a dash cam of a nearby vehicle. Investigators will also look into whether or not the truck driver inhaled smoke before the crash and search for other clues that may support the pre-impact fire claim.

Investigators will also look into the cell phone records of the truck driver to see if distracted driving was a factor. Additionally, the driver’s last 72 hours of activity and his training will be included in the investigation.

Rosekind also noted that only one of the trailers was partially loaded. The other trailer was empty. NTSB is in the process of collecting the manifest for the partial load, especially to determine if hazardous material was on board.

NTSB acknowledged during the media briefing that the bus had several emergency exits available. Every window on the bus, with the exception of one in the rear, served as an emergency exit. A door midway on the passenger side for wheelchair access was locked and unavailable for use as an emergency exit.

The section of Interstate 5 where the crash occurred was constructed in 1964. On average, 23,400 vehicles pass through each day. Of those daily vehicles, 21 percent are commercial motor vehicles. In the past five years, 109 accidents have occurred within a 10-mile radius of the crash scene. Only one involved a fatality and no other crashes involved a vehicle crossing the median.

Sunday’s press conference was the last media briefing for the crash scene. A preliminary report with any new information will be released in about 30 days.

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