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Distracted Driving Alleged in Bus Crash That Killed 13

A pickup truck collided head-on with a church van recently, killing a total of 13 people on a rural road in Texas. 

Now, after a witness asserted he had seen the truck moving erratically on the two-lane road just before the crash, the pickup truck operator admitted he was texting and driving. The witness had perceived the pickup truck driver’s maneuvers behind the wheel to be so dangerous, he called authorities and was following the truck at the time of the fatal collision. Just before the crash, he told dispatchers that they needed to send someone soon to get him off the road, “before he hits somebody.”

The witness watched in horror as the truck slammed into the bus. Soon thereafter, he spoke with the 20-year-old pickup truck driver, who was injured but survived.  The driver reportedly apologized repeatedly. The witness said, “Son, do you know what you just did?” to which the pickup truck driver again apologized and said he was, “Just texting.” 

Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board have launched an investigation into the incident. While they have yet to reach any formal conclusions, a representative did go on record to say it appeared the pickup truck had crossed the center line.

The bus, occupied by church congregants, had been returning from a church retreat when it was struck by the truck near a state park. Only one passenger in the bus accident survived – and that individual was listed in critical condition, according to the state’s department of safety.

The phone call made by the aforementioned witness was just one of three calls made to 911 dispatchers regarding the erratic driver. Authorities say they were on the lookout for the vehicle, but had not yet tracked it down.

The crash happened at a bend in the road where the speed limit is 65 mph, according to investigators.

Most of those who lost their lives were in their 80s. The lone survivor of the wreck is a woman in her 60s. The driver of the pickup is in serious condition.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported an estimated 3,500 people were killed in distracted driving crashes just in 2015. Another 391,000 suffered serious injury in crashes that involved at least one distracted driver.

Although distraction can take many forms, texting is one of the most perilous because even sending or reading a single text requires one to take their eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. If a driver is traveling 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving an entire football field with your eyes closed.

The NHTSA opined that at any given moment, nearly 660,000 drivers are using their cell phones while behind the wheel. Teens and young adults ages 16 to 24 are the group that typically have the largest percentage of distracted drivers.

Cases like this are all the more tragic because there is often not enough insurance money to adequately compensate victims and their families for their losses. Some possible sources of recovery in this case may include:

  • At-fault driver’s insurance;
  • At-fault driver’s personal liability (if he has any personal assets worth pursuing);
  • Underinsured motorist coverage from bus owner/ operator;
  • Underinsured motorist coverage held by individual passengers.

If there is evidence the bus driver held any responsibility or that poor road design may have been a factor, there could be additional claims to pursue.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

NTSB investigates Texas church bus accident that left 13 dead, March 30, 2017, By Steve Almasy and Tina Burnside, CNN

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