The Indiana driver stated in a report on the Dec. 5 crash that killed a student that he was trying to remove a jacket and sweatshirt, and took his eyes off the road just before the incident.
OAKLAND, Iowa — Questions about what caused the fatal school bus fire here last week remain unanswered at this point, but authorities have confirmed the cause of death for the driver and the student on board.
The Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner determined that school bus driver Donald Hendricks, 74, and student Megan Klindt, 16, both died from “smoke and soot inhalation and thermal injuries.”
“The manner of death for the two decedents was classified as an accident,” John Kraemer, director of forensic operations, said in an emailed statement to School Bus Fleet.
Meanwhile, local and federal officials are continuing to investigate the Dec. 12 incident. Hendricks and Klindt were the only occupants of the Riverside Community School District bus. Authorities have said that the bus driver had apparently backed into a roadside ditch when the fire broke out, but it was not clear why he and his passenger were not able to evacuate from the bus.
The circumstances of the incident caught the interest of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which launched a full team investigation.
In a Dec. 14 press conference recorded by the Omaha World-Herald (see below), NTSB Senior Investigator Peter Kotowski said that the agency would try to determine the ignition source and the probable cause of the school bus fire. He noted that while NTSB has investigated crashes that involved fires in school buses and motorcoaches, the Iowa incident was unusual because of the lack of a crash.
“The circumstances in this one, without a sustained or heavy impact, is one of the reasons why it drew our attention,” Kotowski said.
Among other factors to be analyzed are toxicology samples from the driver and student, the school district’s transportation policies, the maintenance history of the bus, and the vehicle’s construction and emergency egress. NTSB was also working to determine whether the bus, a 2005 International Type C model, was involved in a safety recall for an electrical circuitry issue.
Kotowski said that about two weeks after the on-scene investigation, NTSB would release a preliminary factual report. The full investigation will likely take 12 to 14 months, and then the agency will issue a final report.
An NTSB spokesperson told SBF on Thursday morning that he did not have any additional updates about the investigation.
Watch the Omaha World-Herald’s video of the Dec. 14 NTSB press conference here:
Fire expert Fredrik Rosen, marketing manager at RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, told SBF that while he was not familiar with the details of the Iowa incident, bus fires often relate to component failures. Accordingly, RISE developed a voluntary certification system, SPCR 191, to support vehicle operator maintenance work.
“The basis of SPCR 191 certification is training,” Rosen said. “It is crucial that the maintenance staff, safety engineers, quality inspectors, and fleet managers achieve training focused on fire prevention and conducting fire risk assessments.”
Williamson County Schools teams up with local law enforcement to encourage drivers to slow down and not pass stopped school buses.
Williamson County Schools teams up with six local law enforcement agencies to release a series of safety videos encouraging motorists to not pass stopped school buses.
Three Pennsyvlania siblings are hit by a car while waiting for their school bus. One student is taken to the hospital, where he is later pronounced dead, and two others are transported for injuries.
Mary Claire Jones of Pennsylvania is struck by the vehicle after it drives past the stopped school bus. Jones is listed in critical condition.
Erik Richard Bonde is about to pick up students when police arrive to let him know his driver’s license is suspended. His blood alcohol test results are above the legal limit for driving, police say.
This video highlights a campaign from the anti-trafficking nonprofit organization Street Grace, which included 72 buses and transportation staff from Gwinnett County Public Schools.
Beachwood City Council approves legislation to install lap-shoulder belts on all new school buses after facilitating classroom discussions with elementary school students.
The New Jersey driver reportedly tries to make a left turn and collides with a tractor-trailer, authorities say. Fourteen students are taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
It is essential that the motorists who share the road with bus drivers stop for stopped school buses. However, it is encouraging to see how technology is evolving to help provide an even safer ride for all students.
The survey covers such topics as student ridership, driver pay, and special-needs bus equipment.
An Oklahoma driver resigns and an aide is suspended after reportedly leaving a 7-year-old with a wheelchair who has cerebral palsy on a bus for over six hours and not reporting it.
The Florida aide was charged with 32 counts of child abuse in June, but the charges were dropped because state law allows parents and other adults to use corporal punishment.
Gwinnett County Public Schools supplies a nonprofit with 72 buses, drivers, and other staff to drive through Atlanta and raise awareness of the issue.
Darlene Campbell of Georgia earns the HERO award from the Henry County (Ga.) Board of Education for helping a student on her bus who was reportedly having a bad seizure.