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August 05, 2010  |   Comments (10)   |   Post a comment

2 killed in crash involving school buses


GRAY SUMMIT, Mo. — State troopers have reported that a student and the driver of a pickup truck were fatally injured in a chain-reaction highway accident today involving a tractor trailer cab, two school buses and the truck.

The buses were taking high school band members to a Six Flags amusement park when the collision occurred, The Associated Press (AP) reports.

The pickup truck slammed into the back of the tractor, which had slowed for traffic near a construction zone. The bus that was carrying the girl who was killed then struck the pickup from behind and was rear-ended by the other school bus.

Highway Patrol Cpl. Jeff Wilson told the AP that the driver of the first bus had moved into the passing lane to give a distressed vehicle in the shoulder more room. She was checking her rearview mirror while returning to the right-hand lane when she noticed the first impact but could not stop in time, hitting the pickup. The second bus then rear-ended the first, vaulting the first bus onto the top of the pickup, which was crushed.

Joy Tucker, superintendent of the St. James School District, said the town was devastated.

"It's been a horrible, horrible day in our community, and we'll never get over this," Tucker told the AP.

Dozens of other children were injured during the accident and were taken to area hospitals, but their injuries are not considered to be life-threatening.

A statement on the district's Website asks people to keep the children and their families in their thoughts and prayers.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched a go-team to investigate the accident. NTSB board member Christopher Hart is accompanying the team and will serve as the on-scene spokesman. Senior Highway Investigator Peter Kotowski has been designated as the investigator-in-charge. Public Affairs Officer Terry Williams is accompanying the team, which is expected to arrive on scene this evening.

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PRECIOUS CARGO: The common denominator here seems to be FOLLOWING TOO CLOSE, FOLLOWING TOO CLOSE AND FOLLOWING TOO CLOSE. Do you think it was the first time they've followed too close? As someone wrote earlier, the Smith System Training is the key to prevention. However, if you only stick the drivers in a classroom and show them a video on the Smith System as is done with the company I recently worked for as a driver, it's not effective enough to achieve the goals of your safety plan. Yeah they can recite the 5 Keys, but ask them what the 5 Keys really mean from behind the wheel. And think of the huge amount of money your company paid for Smith System training. When it's time for bus evacuation drills does your school stick the students in an assembly and just show them a video and that's it? A Location Manager said to me, "You make us look really good!" Another Manager said, "I feel good knowing he's out there." During my tenure with RSTS every one of the drivers in my region were trained in "Smith System" behind the wheel. As a result, we, not I, achieved one of the lowest region crash rates in the company. Additionally, you must have on-the-road observations in your region "every single school day of the year" by someone specifically dedicated to this position on a full-time basis. When the drivers know you are out there and visible the purpose is two-fold, immediate support for any type of problem or event and the eyes and ears of what is taking place out there every day. Approached properly this method is proven to work and reduce crashes. I know, because I've done it. During my semi-retirement I drove a School Bus for 4 years and no-one from the company ever followed my bus or for that matter followed any driver. Yes, the drivers had an on-board observation yearly and that was it. We can also drag a 100lb dummy across the parking lot. What is your priority? Essentially you MUST have an experienced and trained observer in this position at a regional level wh

Daniel    |    May 24, 2011 09:33 PM

I find it insulting to our industry that so often these school bus crashes involved safe practices not followed that lead to these events. Everything from following too close, allowing unruly students to have the run of the bus, speeding into and out of bus stops, not enforcing safe driving practices, and on and on. Most of us are good drivers, none of us are perfect but with a bit of luck. The average driver that happens to be behind the wheel of a school bus are also lucky when circumstance favors them. Even the best, including those using the Smith System can thank their lucky stars or whatever when nothing happened trip after trip, day after day, month after month and year after year. School buses have actually been struck from out of the blue by airplanes. I don't think training is the issue in our industry, will accept attitude behind the wheel helps luck have its way. Just to mention: A charter bus sent to pick up kids at the fatal school bus accident crashed into a building on the way to the scene.,0,7429897.photogallery

jkraemer    |    Aug 10, 2010 02:25 PM

I'd like to know how the kids were evacuated from the bus that landed on top of the rig.

Suzan Atkins    |    Aug 10, 2010 07:00 AM

I agree with leaving the back seats empty. We teach that in our training in my school district in Kansas. But I see drivers who have ten kids on their bus and there will be a sudents in the back two seats. Drivers need to follow their district rules. But maybe this needs to go back to the bus manufactures.WHY are they allowed to put the seats so close to the back of the bus. Everyone knows it is not safe. Either make a 65 passenger bus a 60 passenger bus or extend the rear of the bus. We have other safety features like strobe lights, crossing gates, crossover mirrors,speakers no closer than 4 feet from the driver,child check devices, etc. Lets make it a law that seats cannot be right up next to the rear of the bus. Please everyone remember what you were taught during training, drive safe and have agreat school year.

Sheila    |    Aug 07, 2010 11:00 AM

I would like to know if the NTSB goes over the school district records in an instance like this. I agree that training is the biggst part in this situation. Seat belts might not have saved this life but a driver that had been taught to leave the back seat vacant might have. I find it VERY upsetting that school districts do not comply with rules and regulations and even mandates but there is no one to check and enforce. There need to be State enforcement that is regulated and complies with Federal mandates for all. The same budget that gives the Superintendents raises could use the money to save lives if there were consequences.

Kansas bus driver    |    Aug 06, 2010 12:58 PM

To the comment that Robin made about what kind of "training do they receive down south." I find that comment to be insulted, since I'm myself a driver in the south. This could have happen anywhere where the factors play a role as James mentions speed, not looking ahead, following to close, and distration. My district have taught us all this in training, and stress to us everyday to keep your following distance and looking ahead. It not a North or South thing it is about one driver beliving in transporting students saftly and following all the rules.

Frank Bivins    |    Aug 06, 2010 12:13 PM

Apparently to fast and to close!!!! A sad situation for all.

anonymous    |    Aug 06, 2010 09:08 AM

I have to ask, why do our School Bus Drivers use what is referred to in this article as a rear view mirror? I drive for a School District in New York State and when I was trained, that mirror was always called a suicide mirror. It is obvious that it has live up to its name. Drivers please do not use this mirror for anything other than checking on your students inside the bus. I feel so sorry for the family's, but I also am very angry that both of the bus drivers did not see anything that was going on it front of them, and following so close. What kind of training do they receive down south? I also saw an article of another bus from the same district that was heading to the hospital rear ended another vehicle and the driver claimed the breaks failed. Again I ask were they following to close?

Robin    |    Aug 06, 2010 08:58 AM

Bus Drivers'm worst nightmare. Especially on the highway, you need eyes in the back of your head. Someone stops short and....

Anonymous    |    Aug 06, 2010 05:40 AM

Distraction, speeding for conditions, not looking ahead, following too close - an effective recipe for crashing any vehicle. Very sad how often I see students scattered all over the bus. Better supervision and much safer to close the rear area when possible. But so many fail to enforce all sorts of safe practices that can actually save lives. sometimes this claim is in vain ... "It will never happen to us." Bus driver distraction, speeding for conditions, not looking ahead and following too close: An effective recipe for crashing any vehicle. In the various stories website comment areas several were questioning the lack of seat belts on the big school buses. But in this case it is not yet clear if the buses had seat belts installed. Seat belts may not likely helped the student killed if that student was sitting at the impact area in the back of the school bus. Just as it is pretty obvious that buckled-up and airbags could not protect the man in the pickup crushed into a ball during the crash. Outside the direct impact areas, then even lap belts are excellent safety devices on the big school buses - their so-called dangers another of many fallacies. Back, neck, brain injuries, and ejection happen to unbelted students, not to the students that buckle-up. An excellent video demonstrates one school's experience with the more expensive 3-points: (Scan down the right sidebar for the video.) But here again a vehicle crashing through the bus wall is likely to kill, buckled-up or not. What helps on trips involving unbelted buses is reserving the last few seats for equipment kept low in the rear area seats and netted in place. But again, too often students are permitted to spread across the bus creating a vulnerable environment, especially for those sitting in the rear area. Even on regular routes closing the rear area when possible helps reduce unruly student conduct. And, here again, this safe practice

James Kraemer    |    Aug 05, 2010 07:39 PM

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