Transportations officials say a preliminary report into the fatal crash of a New Jersey school bus with a dump truck shows there were obstructions limiting the visibility of the roadway.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash involving a school bus carrying elementary school students and a dump truck in Chesterfield Township, NJ the morning of February 16 that killed one child and injured 17 others.
The school bus, driven by 66-year-old John Tieman, was traveling on Old York Rd. en route to Chesterfield elementary school that morning when it came to the flashing red light at the intersection of County Route 528. Tieman stopped beyond the stop limit sign before moving into the intersection, possibly due to an obstruction in his line of sight down County Route 528.
Moments after the bus entered the intersection a dump truck struck it in the driver’s side rear, behind the rear axle, spinning the bus in a counterclockwise direction until the right side of the school bus hit a metal pole holding the traffic signal and came to a stop. The dump truck traveled more than 100 ft before stopping in a field.
Herman's Trucking of Wrightstown, NJ owns the dump truck and 38-year-old Michael Caporale, of New Egypt, NJ, was driving. He told investigators he was traveling at 45 mph when he applied the brakes and turned the wheel in an effort to avoid the crash. The dump truck had the right of way at the intersection, which had a flashing amber light for traffic traveling County Route 528.
Caporale had just picked up a load of asphalt from a construction site near the New Jersey Turnpike.
According to NJ.com, the dump truck was overloaded by 5%.
“The school bus driver stated to investigators that he never saw the approaching Mack truck, which was approaching the intersection from the west,” NTSB Chief Investigator Peter Kotowski said at a press conference.
“The line of sight evaluation determined that at some locations the line of sight was obstructed due to environmental features of the intersection,” Kotowski said.
The NTSB did not state what environmental features obstructed the roadway. It may have been trees, shrubbery or utility poles.
Tieman was new to the route and it was only his ninth time driving it when the accident occurred. Twenty-five children, grades K through sixth were on the bus. It only had three more stops before reaching its destination.
The drivers of both vehicles were injured. Of the children, 17 sustained injuries with two of those being life threatening.
Philly.com reports that Isabelle Tezsla, one of three 11-year-old triplet girls on the bus was killed in the crash. Her sisters Natalie and Sophie were hospitalized. While Natalie was released from the hospital on Wednesday, Sophie and 11-year-old Jonathan Zdybel are still in critical condition.
New Jersey requires that school buses be equipped with seatbelts, but it is under investigation how many students were wearing them. It could take more than a year for the NTSB to finish its investigation.