While the cause of the fatal Missouri school bus crash on Interstate 44 near Gray Summit is still being investigating, some more details are beginning to emerge, including the names of the two that were killed.
The female student who was killed was Jessica Brinker, 15, and the other death was Daniel Schatz, 19, who was driving the GMC pickup that was also involved in the fatal car crash. Brinker was a member of the John F. Hodge High School band, which was on its way to Six Flags and split up between the two buses involved in the wreck. Schatz was a reserve quarterback for the University of Missouri football team and son of Dave Schatz, a Republican candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives.
In addition to the two deaths, there were more than 50 injuries. Several of the injures were considered serious, but fortunately, most were able to escape the crash with relatively minor scrapes and bruises.
Again, the full investigation is still weeks away from being completed, but local media reports have begun to piece together some of the events leading up to the crash. The two buses were following behind Schatz’s pickup and a Volvo truck tractor. The driver of the truck tractor began to slow down for construction related traffic when Schatz crashed into the back of the truck, which was without a trailer. Moments later, the first school bus crashed into the back of the pickup and came to a rest on top of the first two vehicles. The second bus then collided with the rear of the first.
The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team of 15 people to assist in the investigation, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. An accident reconstruction will be performed to determine the exact cause of the crash. Representatives from the NTSB told the Post Dispatch they are particularly interested in this incident because they are looking for ways to improve school bus and construction zone safety, as well as determining whether crash-sensing devices on larger vehicles could prevent future school bus and tractor trailer crashes.
The NTSB will not make any statements regarding fault or liability and are requesting that any witnesses to the crash contact the Missouri State Highway Patrol or the NTSB directly. Coming forward as a witness takes a lot of courage and many people would choose not to involve themselves in the situation. It is important, though, that investigators get all the facts about this St. Louis school bus crash so they can determine who was at fault. More than simply getting to the bottom of this incident, the NTSB will be able to use information gathered about this crash to help stop future crashes.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking directly to authorities, you can also email me with any information concerning the St. James bus accident and I will forward it to the appropriate officials.