DALLAS — Federal investigators are trying to determine whether a pickup driver’s texting and drug use contributed to athat killed its driver and 12 passengers, according to a preliminary report released Thursday.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s report does not state a probable cause for the March 29 crash on U.S. 83 near Garner State Park, about 75 miles west of San Antonio. However, it lists what investigators are focusing on as they reconstruct the events that led to the crash.
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Truck driver Jack Dillon Young, 20, and one passenger of the bus owned by the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels were the sole survivors of the crash, which happened as the senior adult members of the church were returning home from a church retreat.
The report notes an NTSB review of witness Jody Kuchler’s 14-minute video of the pickup prior to the crash that showed Young’s truck cross the double yellow center line 19 times, the solid white shoulder lines 37 times and the grass shoulder at least five times.
At one point, the video even shows the truck driving on the wrong side of the road. Investigators estimated the truck was traveling at from 67 to 71 mph in a 70-mph speed zone, based on an analysis of the video.
The report says Young told investigators that he was checking his phone for a text when the crash happened. He also said he had taken prescription drugs before the crash, and investigators found marijuana in the truck. Investigators are awaiting results of toxicology tests.
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“The noise of the crash was very loud and everything was in slow motion,” Kuchler said by phone to CBS News in March.
“He said, ‘I’m sorry, ‘I’m sorry, I was texting,'” Kuchler said. “And I said, ‘Son, do you realize what you just did?’ He just said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ but he wasn’t crying — he wasn’t none of that.”
Kuchler made a frantic call to the Real County Sheriff Department: “I’m following this guy, he’s in a white Dodge dually. He’s all over the road. Both sides. Somebody needs to stop this guy.”
They took pictures and recorded Young as several cars swerved out of the truck’s path.
“He’s gonna hit someone head-on or he’s gonna kill his own damn self,” Kuchler says on the 911 call. “Somebody needs to get this guy off the road.”
The report says the tuck was approaching the end of a 4-degree curve to the right when it crossed into the opposing lane and slammed into the left front corner of the bus. The bus driver and front row passenger were wearing shoulder belts, while the passengers behind them were all wearing lap belts. Young was using no seatbelt.
No mechanical defects have been found in either vehicle. No crash-related data have been retrieved from any vehicle devices capable of recording and transmitting such data, the report states.
The crash remains under investigation, and the NTSB said it is working alongside the Texas Department of Public Safety, reports CBS affiliate KENS-TV in San Antonio.
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Source: CBS News – United States