Human error not ruled out in Amy Beverland bus crash

Emergency crews respond to a fatal school bus crash at Amy Beverland Elementary School Tuesay, Jan. 26, 2016. (Provided Photo/IFD)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Authorities say the bus driver showed no signs of impairment and inspectors found no mechanical issues with the school bus that struck and killed an elementary school principal Tuesday.

That leaves open the possibility, they acknowledge, that human error could be to blame for the fatal crash, but they won’t know with any certainty until both toxicology results are returned and a full crash investigation report is complete.

That could take days or weeks.

“It points us in a direction that this is nothing more than a tragic accident. We don’t believe there was any criminal intent or criminal culpability at this point in our investigation,” Lt. Rick Riddle, a spokesman with IMPD, told I-Team 8 Wednesday. “We have a few more adult witnesses that we want to talk to (who) were present at yesterday’s accident, and we are waiting on the toxicology results.”

Amy Beverland Elementary Principal Susan Jordan was struck and killed Tuesday afternoon as students were being loaded onto buses for dismissal. Authorities say bus No. 244 jumped the curb and struck two other students and Jordan — killing her. The students were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

Indiana State Police inspectors completed a post-crash inspection Tuesday evening but found “no mechanical violations” that would have caused the crash, Indiana State Police bus inspector Sgt. Chris Kath told I-Team 8.

Inspectors with state police will spend the next week or so examining the driver’s records, as well as diagnostic information from the bus that might help investigators determined what went wrong. A video camera mounted on the bus might also give investigators a better indication of what happened, Sgt. Kath said.

“We found no mechanical violations that attributed to the crash,” Kath said. “There were no mechanical violations that we found on the bus. Even more specifically, we didn’t find any ripped or torn seats or any electrical lights that were not operating properly — everything complied with the state school bus specifications.”

The Lawrence Township school district refused to release the driver’s name Wednesday, but officials said she had a clean driving record. The district also declined to comment about whether Tuesday’s fatal crash would prompt a review of transportation procedures within the district.

“The bus driver fully cooperated, fully consented and went forward with a blood draw,” Lt. Riddle said. “The bus driver showed no signs of impairment that our officers could see, smell or observe. So once that toxicology report comes back we can take that off the table.”

Lt. Riddle was hesitant to say with certainty that driver error was the cause of Tuesday’s fatal crash, but he did say that it could be possible.

“If that is driver-error based upon everything that we’ve investigated and the reports that we still have outstanding, then we can make that determination. But at this point, it’s too early to make a final determination on the exact cause of yesterday’s accident,” he said.

State police inspection records reviewed by I-Team 8 show the school bus had no recent violations and passed it’s most recent inspection on Friday.

In their post-crash report, inspectors with Indiana State Police said damage to the bus was as a result of the accident – more specifically, damage to the front end of the bus, including the areas in the headlights and the left side, just below the driver.

“Unfortunately, I’ve seen a few fatalities involving a school bus and none of them are pretty,” Kath said. “It looks like (the damage) was the result of the crash from… from the crash,” he said.

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