A National Transportation Safety Board team is on the ground in Licking, Ohio, following a deadly highway crash involving a charter bus carrying a high school marching band. The crash left six people dead and 18 others injured.
The team arrived on Nov. 15, after the crash which occurred the day prior.
The Crash: What We Know
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP), the crash happened just before 9 a.m. on Nov. 14 on Interstate 70 near State Route 310. Involved in the crash were the charter bus carrying a driver and 54 students and chaperones from Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools, two passenger vehicles, and two commercial vehicles — one of which was identified by WBNS as a semi-truck.
The students and chaperones were on their way to perform at the Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus. WBNS reported that the conference was canceled when organizers learned of the crash.
WBNS reported that the semi-truck rear-ended the charter bus, causing a chain reaction crash. At least three of the vehicles subsequently caught fire.
Three of the bus passengers were pronounced deceased on the scene. Additionally, all three people in one of the passenger vehicles, identified by the school district as a staff member and two parents, were also killed.
The names of those killed include:
- John W. Mosely, age 18.
- Katelyn N. Owens, age 15.
- Jeffery D. Worrell, age 18.
- Kristy Gaynor, age 39
- Dave Kennat, age 56.
- Shannon Wigfield, age 45.
Fifteen students and the bus driver were transported to area hospitals. The remaining students were taken to a reunification site.
Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools Superintendent Dr. Derek Varansky read a statement to parents and students at a vigil held on Nov. 14, saying in part, "There are no words for the magnitude of loss and grief felt by all of us," calling the students who died "bright lights" and "full of life," according to WKYC.
Varansky explained the district's decision to resume classes on Nov. 15, saying, "we do not want children home alone, yet we respect students and parents who wish for their child to remain at home." The district made counselors and support staff from community organizations and neighboring districts available to those who needed them.
Additionally, the district shared common signs and signals of a stress reaction for parents to look for in their children following the crash.
Sally Green, Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) president-elect and Tuscarawas Valley local school board member, shared a statement with OSBA, saying in part, "During this time of loss, it's important to capture every moment with have with students. Relationships have the greatest impact both in grief and restoration."
Of the two commercial vehicles involved, one driver was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The other was treated and released at the scene. The driver of the second passenger vehicle was also transported to an area hospital.
Investigating the Crash
The OSHP statement said the cause of the crash was under investigation and witnesses were urged to come forward.
In a news conference, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said there was conflicting information about the sequence of events that led to the crash. She also said it's too early to determine what caused the fire after the crash.
The NTSB team will look through camera footage gathered by OSHP after the crash, as well as footage from vehicles that were not involved that may have captured the crash.
In the news conference, Homendy mentioned that there was an unrelated crash about an hour prior to this one, west of where this crash occurred. OSHP told School Bus Fleet that crash was a four-vehicle crash to the left of the roadway, off the road. Law enforcement were still on the scene of that crash when this one occurred. It's unclear if the two are related.
The only seat belt on the motor coach, according to Homendy, was in the driver's seat.
The NTSB team is expected to remain in the area for the next few days. The investigation could take up to 18 months, but a preliminary report will be available in two to three weeks. At any time during the investigation, the NTSB could release urgent safety recommendations related to the crash.
"Our focus is on safety. Our whole mission is based on determining how this happened, why this happened, and to prevent it from reoccurring," Homendy said.