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Could fatal Calif. bus-truck crash lead to new safety measures?

If safety recommendations the National Transportation Safety Board has been pushing for had only been in use, some lives might have been saved in that deadly crash last week in Orland, California. That at least seems to be the suggestion behind comments from the chief NTSB official investigating the tragedy.

Few are likely unaware of the horrific situation. Officials say 10 people were killed and more than a dozen others were injured Friday when a double-trailer FedEx truck veered across a wide median on Interstate 5 and slammed head-on into a coach bus carrying a group of students and chaperones making a spring trip to Humboldt State University.   

Authorities confirm that the accident killed five students, three adult chaperones and the drivers of both the bus and the truck. What is still undetermined is just what the circumstances were that led to the fiery crash. Was it driver or company negligence?

There are reports that the FedEx truck was on fire before the collision. Officials say they haven't ruled anything out, but that there is no evidence to support those reports right now. The spokesman for the NTSB says investigators are looking into whether fatigue in either driver, distraction or mechanical issues with the truck might have been factors.

The NTSB official at the scene says one of the hardest things for him is the reality that safety improvements that have long been promoted by his agency have been slow to be adopted. He expresses the hope that perhaps this accident will serve to encourage new consideration of such recommendations as requiring seatbelt usage on all buses and better fire safety rules and emergency exits.

Officials say an initial NTSB report on the crash is expected within the next 30 days. State officials say a determination of cause could take three to six months. Those findings are sure to be of interest to those who are now suffering pain and loss after this heartbreaking accident.

Source: National Public Radio, "Feds revisit safety rules after Calif. bus crash," Associated Press, April 14, 2014

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