A fiery bus accident in Florida recently killed 5 people and injured 25 others, leaving investigators to untangle the mystery of what might have caused the driver of a decades-old school bus to breeze through a flashing red light and slam into the side of a tractor-trailer. Both vehicles burst into flames upon impact.
News reports are the 56-year-old bus driver, who hails from Belle Glade, was hospitalized in critical condition. The 55-year-old driver of the semi-truck died as a result his injuries. The 21-year-old passenger in the truck was not injured, but four bus passengers died at the scene. Of the 25 total people injured, three were in critical condition.
The bus accident occurred on Coastal Highway 98 in Wakulla County. Those on board were Haitian migrant farmworkers and their families from Georgia. They were on their way to Belle Glade for a few weeks of contracted work before they planned to head back up north. Both vehicles were reduced to charred, smoking frames of their former masses.
What authorities do know so far is that the crash occurred around 5 a.m., reportedly only about an hour after it had left. Seasoned investigators told reporters it was among the worst crash sites they had seen in their careers.
Rumble strips do lead up to the site of the flashing light, which has a red signal for motorists traveling both north and south. The manager of a gas station nearby said there had been several wrecks at that intersection just in the last decade she had worked there. She also said it was the worst wreck she had ever seen. A gas station attended had rushed out and tried to help, but was stopped by the site of the huge flames and live wires all over the ground. A captain with the Florida Highway Patrol said it seems several passengers fled the site of the crash and have not been located since.
Investigators still don’t know at this point what caused the bus driver to miss the red blinking light, whether it was distraction or fatigue or intoxication or some other factor.
What our Orlando bus accident lawyers can say is that bus accidents are known to spike in the summertime. Most bus and motor coach companies do significant business in the summer months.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the agency responsible for investigating bus accidents, reports more than 700 million people are transported by buses annually. Most people do get safely to and from their destination. However, more than 250 people are killed and more than 20,000 injured annually in bus-related crashes.
The passage of the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, which went into effect in 2012, requires seat belts and harnesses, reinforced windows, crush-resistant roofs, enhanced driver training and resistant bus interiors. The downside is it’s mostly only applicable to new buses – and there are plenty of old buses still in use. This case is just one example.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that when it comes to fatal bus accidents, intercity buses account for 13 percent, school buses account for 41 percent and transit buses account for 33 percent.
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.
4 dead, 25 hopsitalized in Wakulla County bus crash, July 3, 2016, By Karl Etters, Tallahassee Democrat
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