Investigators say that it may take a month or longer to determine whether the driver was at fault for the December 30 crash that sent a private bus over the edge of a winding mountain road and killed at least three people with ties to Washington state and the Seattle area. The bus accident resulted in at least nine fatalities and forced rescue crews to struggle with the challenge of retrieving injured victims from the bottom of a 200 foot slope in winter conditions.
The private bus was carrying 48 passengers when it collided with a concrete barrier and crossed over two lanes of the roadway before crashing through a guardrail and tumbling down the steep embankment. Passengers have given fairly consistent descriptions of the events leading up to the fatal motor vehicle accident. They describe the bus swerving after the driver hit the brakes then sliding on ice before hitting the guardrail and rolling downhill. Injured victims were transported to hospitals in three different states.
Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to look into several different factors that may have contributed to the accident. In addition to the driver's actions leading up to the crash, investigators will examine the bus company's operating practices as well as the conditions of the roadway and the guardrail that collapsed under impact. At least one witness reported snow and fog at the time of the accident, so dangerous conditions may have played a role in the crash.
An accident as dramatic and tragic as this one may leave victims with wounds that go beyond physical injury. Negligence on the part of the bus driver or the bus company may have contributed to causing the accident, but the investigation may reveal some fault on the part of the governmental entity responsible for building and maintaining the roadway. The injured victims and the families of those killed may need skillful legal counsel to obtain fair compensation from all responsible parties.
Source: The Seattle Times, "Survivor: Bus crash like dream of 'world ending'," Jonathan J. Cooper, Dec. 31, 2012