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Worn tires and driver errors led to fatal bus rollover, NTSB says

High speed, worn treads and other factors played a role in a 2020 fatal bus crash in San Diego County, according to an overview released this week of a National Transportation Safety Board report.

Three people died and 18 others were injured when the 30-passenger bus veered off Interstate 15 in rainy conditions on Feb. 22, 2020. The bus veered off the road, rolled upside down, then flipped place and landed on his back. an embankment, according to the findings of the federal agency announced Tuesday.

The bus was traveling from the Los Angeles area to San Ysidro and then to Tijuana, according to the California Highway Patrol. But at 10:20 a.m., the bus encountered rain. Several of the passengers were ejected from the vehicle, while others were trapped inside.

Federal investigators said only one of the 20 passengers was wearing a seat belt at the time of the rollover accident near Pala Mesa.

Worn treads on two of the inner rear tires, which were below the minimum level allowed by federal law, contributed to the crash, the NTSB said. The outer tires also had marginal tread depths, which affected stability, the agency said.

The bus was traveling from 73mph to 75mph just before the driver lost control, according to data from an engine module, too fast for wet pavement and vehicle conditions, investigators said. Sustained braking and inconsistent steering contributed to the driver’s loss of control, the federal agency said in its findings. The NTSB expects to release its full report in a few weeks.

“This fatal crash is a stark reminder that seat belts save lives and certain weather and road conditions force drivers to slow down,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said in a statement. “But bus operators also have a huge safety responsibility to know – and follow – applicable laws, maintain their fleet and ensure safe speeds for the conditions, as well as proper driver training.”

The NTSB said proper use of the lap and shoulder belt likely would have reduced injuries sustained in the crash. Passengers received no pre-trip safety briefings, according to interviews conducted by the NTSB. The agency recommends bus companies create policies on appropriate speed and safe driving in wet weather, while directing the CHP to develop a public awareness program on proper seat belt use.

The company’s carrier, Executive Lines Inc., said it was unaware of a California law requiring it to notify passengers of the state’s mandatory seat belt law. An email to the company did not receive an immediate response.

The summary of the report says nothing about the responsibility of the driver or the bus company, and it is not clear whether the full report will determine this.

Los Angeles Times

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