NTSB completes on-scene investigation of deadly bus crash in Chattanooga


The NTSB announced Thursday, December 1, 2016 that the organization has completed the on-scene phase of the agency’s investigation of the fatal, Nov. 21, 2016, school bus crash on Talley Road in Chattanooga. They held multiple news conferences while they were in town for close to a week.

NTSB investigators completed several work items before leaving Chattanooga Monday morning:

Vehicle Factors Group

Finished school bus examination, including documenting tire DOT numbers.

Confirmed the brake throttle valve recall and, confirmed a replacement valve was installed as required.

Recorders Group

The engine control module was successfully downloaded and the data are being evaluated.

The NTSB’s Recorder Laboratory in Washington received the school bus video recorders and has begun downloading data.

Confirmed the identity of the bus anti-lock brake module manufacturer and determined the module does not contain useful electronic brake data.

Highway Group

Worked with the school district to receive the last 30 days of GPS download for the school bus and the route driven by the school bus driver prior to the Nov. 21 crash.

Continuing to examine materials received from the City of Chattanooga Transportation Department.

Survival Factors Group

Continued working on seating chart for the 37 student passengers.

Human Performance Group

The NTSB requested an interview with the school bus driver, however, the driver declined to be interviewed on advice of legal counsel. The NTSB continues to pursue an interview with the school bus driver.

Subpoenas were delivered to local hospital and mental health facility to obtain medical history of the driver. Local pharmacies were canvassed for driver records, subpoenas delivered as appropriate. A subpoena was delivered for the driver’s AT&T cellphone records. A subpoena was also delivered to Amazon to obtain the bus driver’s employment record.

Interviewed the school principal regarding driver behavior towards students and general driver concerns.

Witness Group

Three witnesses to the crash response, but who did not witness the crash itself, were interviewed. Investigators are working with the Department of Child Services to set up interviews with student passengers. Investigators are also working with Chattanooga PD, facilitating follow-up interviews regarding the crash events and evacuation, with students who were on the bus.

Other Activities

Chattanooga PD and Leica scanned an exemplar school bus and accident school bus in upright position. Received all scan data from Chattanooga PD.

Final work progress meeting held.

Six students died and more than 20 others were injured as a result of the single-vehicle accident. The NTSB said the Hamilton County School Bus which was operated by Durham School services and driven by 24-year-old Johnthony Walker, hit a mailbox, a utility pole, rolled onto its right side, and then collided with a tree. 37 Woodmore Elementary School students were on the bus at the time of the crash.

The NTSB plans to have a published preliminary report within the next few weeks and will not provide anymore updates until then. The final report should be ready for board review within 12 to 18 months.

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