NTSB: Trucker involved in fatal crash with bus took no evasive actions

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 9/30/2014

The driver of a tractor-trailer that collided with a bus and killed four members of a Texas community college women’s softball team did not take any evasive actions after leaving the roadway and crossing the median, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt made that announcement during a series of press briefings on Sunday and Monday. The crash occurred at approximately 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26, on Interstate 35 just south of Davis, Okla., when a 2013 Peterbilt left the northbound lane of the road and crossed a median before colliding with the southbound bus.

The four players killed were identified by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol as Meagan Richardson, 19; Brooke Deckard, 20; Katelynn Woodlee, 18; and Jaiden Pelton 20. The women were part of the North Texas Community College softball team. Three of the players died at the scene and a fourth died at a hospital in nearby Sulphur, Okla., according to reports.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, 53-year-old Russell Staley, of Saginaw, Texas, worked for Quickway Transportation of Nashville, Tenn. Sumwalt said the tractor-trailer traveled at least 820 feet in the median without stopping or braking before striking the bus.

“When you consider the terrain elevation differences, to go down into a dip and go back up, the total ground run is closer to 950 feet,” Sumwalt said.

Preliminary information from one of the GPS units indicates that at the time the truck departed the roadway, it was going about 70 miles per hour, which is the speed limit of the highway.

Investigators are expected to remain on the scene in Oklahoma through the end of the week. In addition to the NTSB investigation, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol is also conducting its own investigation of the crash.

Sumwalt said the NTSB will subpoena medical records for both Staley and the driver of the softball team bus. Maintenance records for both vehicles are also being sought. He said the agency has also requested an interview with Staley through his attorney.

According to the FMCSA’s website, Quickway Transportation has a BASIC score of 13 percent in Unsafe Driving. The agency’s intervention threshold is 65 percent or greater. The company also scored well below the intervention thresholds in other safety categories, including hours-of-service violations (23 percent; 65 percent threshold), vehicle maintenance (12 percent; 80 percent threshold), and controlled substances and alcohol violations (0 percent). In the last 24 months, the company has had 20 injury crashes, 15 tow-away crashes, and no fatality crashes prior to Friday’s incident.

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