WASHINGTON, D.C. — A recent report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
has revealed that a fatal charter bus crash in Alabama in 2018 was caused by the driver suffering from a medical event.
As SBF previously reported, the bus was one of two that were transporting Texas students home from a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, on March 13. It drove into the median and then off the road and plunged 50 feet into a ravine, killing the bus driver, Harry Caligone, and injuring several students and other passengers. One person suffered critical injuries. A total of 46 people were aboard the bus.
The buses, operated by Houston-based charter bus company First Class Tours, were carrying students from Channelview High School, who had given a band performance at the amusement park.
According to the NTSB’s report, Caligone, 65, was driving westbound on Interstate 10 near Loxley, Alabama. At the crash location, I-10 is a four-lane divided highway with a posted speed limit of 70 mph. The eastbound and westbound lanes are divided by an earthen center median. The weather conditions were reported as dry and clear, states the report, which was released on May 19.
The crash event began when the 2018 Prevost motorcoach departed the westbound lanes at an angle of about 5 degrees, crossed the center median, traveled across the opposing eastbound travel lanes and onto the far eastbound shoulder. It struck the guardrail adjacent to the south shoulder of the roadway, according to the report. The guardrail redirected the motorcoach, which went back across the eastbound travel lanes and returned to the center median.
NTSB investigators confirmed through interviews that the driver was unresponsive when the charter bus departed the westbound roadway and first entered the center median and that he remained unresponsive throughout the crash sequence, according to the report.
The report also points to Caligone's history of high blood pressure as a possible factor, and notes that after his most recent CDL medical exam, his medical certificate was restricted to three months.
The NTSB has determined that the probable cause of the bus’s departure from the roadway and crash into the ravine was Caligone's incapacitation due to an unknown medical event, according to its report.
"Although the circumstances of the crash are consistent with sudden driver incapacitation due to a medical event, the exact cause of the driver’s incapacitation could not be determined from the available evidence," the report states.