The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) reports that among those killed were the driver of the semi-truck, a 4-year-old child aboard the bus and three others also on the bus.
Investigators say both the bus – with 34 people on board – and the semi-truck burst into flames upon impact. The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office reports that fatalities likely would have been much more numerous had first-responder deputies not boarded the bus and started pulling victims off before the bus became fully engulfed in flames.
The bus driver was reportedly in critical condition. As of this writing, no charges were filed, but that could change. It will depend on how or if the bus driver’s condition improves, as well as the findings of the FHP investigation.
Preliminary reports are that the bus driver breezed through a stop sign equipped with a flashing red light at the intersection of SR 363 and U.S. 98 just outside of Tallahassee.
The bus was packed with Haitian farm workers and their families. Many on board were members of the First Haitian Community Church and worked for a farm in Georgia. They were headed to Florida for seasonal farm work and planned eventually to return.
The sheriff of Wakulla County, who called the crash “among the worst” he’d seen in his career, said the bus was a retired model school bus that was built way back in 1979. Of course, commercial vehicles tend to last longer than private vehicles, but they nonetheless require extensive maintenance. It’s unclear from those initial reports who owned the bus, which would give an indication of who was responsible for maintenance and whether any mechanical factors may have come into play.
It’s also unclear how long the driver had been on the road at the time the crash occurred. In so many of these cases, we find out after the fact that the driver was sleep-deprived and that fatigue played a role in the crash.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the agency responsible for tallying bus accidents in the U.S. The most recent statistics from 2014 show that there were 411,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks and buses. Of those, 3,978 were fatal. There has been a 33 percent decrease in the number of fatal crashes involving buses and large trucks from 2004 through 2009, but then there was a 20 percent increase between 2009 to 2013. Then from 2013 to 2014, there was a 4.5 percent decrease.
So in general, we’re better off than we were just a few years ago, but even one of these crashes is one too many, especially given the fact that when these crashes do occur, the injury and fatality rates tend to be high.
In this case, victims and family members will want to speak with an attorney early on about the potential avenues of compensation. It will depend largely on who employed the driver, who owned the bus and whether there were issues with the bus’s maintenance or driver fatigue or lack of training or some other factor.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Five dead, 25 injured when bus, tractor trailer collide in Florida, July 3, 2016, By CNN
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