WASHINGTON, D.C. — In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced on Tuesday that it has canceled a meeting to determine the probable cause of a 2018 crash in Indiana that killed three students and injured another as they were trying to board their bus.
In lieu of the previously scheduled meeting, which was supposed to take place on April 7, NTSB board members will use an electronic process as detailed in existing agency policy to vote on the staff’s investigative report, which contain the probable cause, findings, and safety recommendations, according to a news release from the NTSB.
“NTSB puts safety first, and we believe that, during this stage of the pandemic, this approach to social distancing protects our staff and the public,” said Sharon Bryson, the agency’s managing director. “Handling the investigation through this vote process is one of several ways the NTSB conducts business while maintaining its commitment to transparency in a digital process.”
As School Bus Fleet previously reported, the crash occurred on Oct. 30, 2018, in Rochester, Ind., when motorist Alyssa Shepherd illegally passed a stopped school bus that had its warning lights and stop arm deployed. Shepherd struck the four students, killing 6-year-old twins Xzavier and Mason Ingle and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl, and seriously injuring an 11-year-old boy, later identified as Maverick Lowe.
Shepherd reportedly told investigators that she didn’t see the bus or the students until it was too late to stop. She received three felony charges for reckless homicide and a misdemeanor count for passing a school bus with the stop arm extended, causing injury.
According to the NTSB’s preliminary report on the crash from February 2019, as SBF previously reported, the roadway at the location of the crash is a two-lane highway and has a posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour. The report also notes that at the time of the crash, two warning signs, one that said “Watch for School Bus” and another that read “Left Curve” were posted for the road’s southbound traffic. There was no lighting at the road at that location and a mobile home park was located to the west of the road, according to the report.
As SBF previously reported, Shepherd was convicted in October of felony reckless homicide, as well as of a felony count of criminal recklessness, and a misdemeanor count for passing a school bus causing injury when the stop arm is extended. She was sentenced in December to four years in prison and three years of house arrest, three years of probation, and her driver’s license was suspended for 10 years. She is appealing her conviction.
An abstract of the NTSB's final report, which will include the probable cause, findings, and safety recommendations, will be available on the NTSB's website when the report is approved by the Board.