The Latest: NTSB: Bus occupants used seatbelts


NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (AP) – The Latest on a deadly crash involving a church bus and a pickup truck in southwest Texas (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

Federal investigators say most, if not all, of the 14 occupants of a church minibus were wearing seatbelts when the bus was slammed head-on by a heavy pick-up truck on a two-lane Texas highway.

Jennifer Morrison of the National Transportation Safety Board said the minibus was fitted out with seatbelts, but only the driver’s seat and front passenger seat had three-point lap-and-shoulder belts. All of the other seats were equipped with lap belts only.

Morrison, who heads the NTSB team investigating the crash that killed 13 of the 14 bus occupants, said a major focus of the federal investigation will be why the elderly passengers did not survive, despite the use of lap belts.

Morrison also said the bus was the body and chassis of a 2004 Fort Econoline van converted into a small bus by Turtle Top.


2 p.m.

A witness to a deadly Texas wreck involving a church minibus says the driver of a pickup truck that crossed the center line repeatedly apologized and acknowledged he had been texting while driving.

Jody Kuchler told The Associated Press on Friday that he was driving behind the truck and had seen it being driven erratically prior to the collision on a rural two-lane road about 75 west (120 km) of San Antonio.

Kuchler says he spoke with the driver as he was pinned in his truck Wednesday moments after the collision with the bus carrying senior adults with First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas.

Kuchler says he told the driver, “Son, do you know what you just did?” He says the driver responded by repeatedly apologizing.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has identified the driver as 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young.

Thirteen people on the bus were killed and the lone survivor remained hospitalized Friday.


11:45 a.m.

A researcher with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute says a likely reason a wreck involving a church minibus resulted in the deaths of nearly everyone aboard is that they all were senior citizens.

Associate research scientist Laura Higgins said Friday that the frailty of older people is a primary reason they’re among the age groups more likely to die in traffic accidents.

Higgins says a seatbelt being worn by a senior adult in a high-impact collision can itself cause internal damage.

There were 14 people aboard the bus Wednesday when it collided head-on with a pickup truck west of San Antonio. Thirteen of them died and the lone survivor remains hospitalized Friday. They ranged in age from 61 to 87.

Authorities have said the truck veered across the center line, striking the bus, but it’s not clear why. The driver of the truck also remains hospitalized.


6:30 a.m.

A traffic accident expert says the 13 senior adults killed this week in a minibus wreck in southwest Texas were more susceptible to internal injuries and damage to vulnerable organs because of their advanced ages.

Kelley Adamson, president and owner of A&M Forensics and Engineering, told the San Antonio Express-News ( ) that a head-on collision, such as the one Wednesday, is the equivalent of striking a brick wall.

He adds that seatbelts aren’t necessarily effective at speeds in excess of 35 mph (56 kph). Authorities have not said whether the bus carrying the senior adults was equipped with restraints.

Authorities also haven’t indicated how fast the bus was traveling when it collided with a pickup truck that drifted across the center line. But they say the speed limit along the stretch of road where the wreck occurred is 65 mph (104 kph).


12:05 a.m.

Authorities in two Texas counties say they received phone calls about a white pickup truck swerving along the roadway shortly before a head-on collision between a church bus and a pickup killed 13 people.

Uvalde police Lt. Daniel Rodriguez says a man called around noon Wednesday to report the erratic truck heading north on U.S. 83. Deputies were dispatched, but Rodriguez says the same person called back less than 30 minutes later to say the truck crashed.

Real County Constable Nathan Johnson also says a woman called to report a truck matching the description was swerving in the same area shortly before the collision about 75 miles (120 km) west of San Antonio.

One person from the bus and the pickup driver remain hospitalized.

On Thursday, National Transportation Safety Board investigators began looking into the crash.

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