NTSB report may offer closure for some in deadly NCTC bus tragedy

The book can hardly be said to be shut regarding the truck-bus accident that killed four members of the North Central Texas College softball team. But it may be closer to being closed following a recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Readers may recall that we posted about this tragedy back in July. At that time, many questions were still unanswered about what had happened on September day in 2014 when a semitrailer truck barreled across a wide grassy median on Interstate 35 in Oklahoma. The northbound truck hit the southbound bus and four young women died. A number of other passengers were injured.

As might be expected, a number of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits were filed after the accident. As our post noted, at least one of them had been settled and two others had been dismissed for unknown reasons. It’s unclear from subsequent news coverage whether any other claims are still outstanding.

We do know that the driver of that truck is charged with four counts of manslaughter in the case. And just last month, the NTSB issued findings of its investigation. It says the accident was due to the “failure of the truck-tractor driver to control his vehicle due to incapacity.” The cause of that incapacitation isn’t certain, but the NTSB says it was likely due to his having used synthetic cannabinoids.

The trucker reportedly told authorities that he lost control while reaching for a soda. But investigators say they found evidence of drug paraphernalia and use in the truck’s cab and noted that the driver hadn’t made any effort to slow the truck down once it left the road.

But the NTSB said the extent of the deaths and injuries weren’t all due to the truck hitting the bus. It says the bus passengers weren’t strapped into their seats, though seat belts were available and school policy calls for them to be used.

When accidents involving commercial trucks occur, the task of assigning appropriate accountability for compensation can be difficult. In this case, the NTSB’s finding could raise new questions about whether the school might somehow bear some responsibility. To get answers victims or their families owe it to themselves to consult with experienced attorneys.