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Tractor-trailers pose a unique risk to other vehicles. The enormous weight and size difference between trucks and passenger vehicles usually means catastrophic injuries for drivers and passengers of the smaller, lighter vehicles whenever they are involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer.
Four members of the North Central Texas College women’s softball team were killed when a 18-wheel tractor-trailer crossed the highway center median in Oklahoma and hit the team’s bus, FOX News reported (9.27.14).
The collision happened on Interstate 35 approximately 70 miles south of Oklahoma City. Three of the victims died at the scene and a fourth died a short time later at a hospital nearby. More than a dozen others were hurt in the accident including the driver of the tractor-trailer. The weather was reported as clear and the highway as dry at the time of the fatal accident.
According to the Associated Press (9.29.14), investigators believe that the truck “drove straight through an interstate median without any signs of braking or trying to avoid the collision.”
Further investigation showed no problem with the truck’s brakes. At the time of the accident, Russell Staley, 53, was driving the semitrailer truck when it entered oncoming traffic and collided with the softball team bus. Head coach Van Hedrick, 48, was driving the bus.
Staley told investigators that he was distracted. It goes without saying that the investigation into the cause of the accident will require more time. Police said they would investigate the accident as if it were a homicide.
The crash occurred as the team was returning home after a game with Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma. The front end of the team bus was virtually untouched, but the sides of the vehicle were heavily damaged. The driver’s side of the bus sustained the worst damage. The four victims identified were Brooke Deckard, 20; Jaiden Pelton, 20; Meagan Richardson, 19; and Katelynn Woodlee, 18.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2012 there were 3,921 people killed and 104,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks. The number of large trucks involved in these accidents was 333,000. The problem becomes more apparent when one considers that 73 percent of the people who died in the crashes were the occupants of the other vehicles. Only 18 percent of those who died were the occupants of the large trucks. Crashes involving a large truck or bus killed 4,281 people in 2013.
The FOX News story cited is “Homicide eyed in deadly Oklahoma bus crash, killing 4 college softball players.”
The Associated Press article from The Kansas City Star cited is “No sign truck driver tried to avoid crash with bus.”