On Sunday, January 5th, a charter bus lost control when it struck a concrete median barrier and swerved up an embankment before rolling down into traffic early in the morning.
The fatal accident occurred 30 miles east of Pittsburgh in Mount Pleasant Township and resulted in officials shutting down an 86-mile stretch of the turnpike in both directions between New Stanton and Breezewood.
On Monday the 6th, the National Transportation Safety Board released a statement indicating that the bus, which had passed inspection less than three weeks prior to the accident, was carrying 56 passengers. The bus’s trip began in Flushing, N.Y. and was heading towards New Stanton. It is not clear whether the bus driver was speeding, but vehicle did not have seat belts.
“We have issued recommendation after recommendation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to have lap shoulder belts on motor coaches and other vehicles,” Jennifer Homendy said, spokesperson for the NTSB, she continued, “Those haven’t been implemented. Yet we continue to see accidents where passengers are ejected.”
Those injured were between the age range of 7- to 67-years-old. 31 victims were transported to Frick Hospital in Mount Pleasant. By around midday, 27 of the 30 had been treated and released. None of these patients were under the age of 18.
Three adults and onechild were sent to a hospital in Pittsburgh. Monroeville’s Forbes Hospital treated 11 other patients, reporting two patients in critical condition. Somerset Hospital received 18 victims, 12 adults, and 6 minors, who were all treated and released.
The UPS drivers, Daniel Kepner, 53, and Dennis Kehler, 48, identified by a UPS spokesperson, were two of the victims who died.
In addition to the Pennsylvania natives who died, three New Yorkers perished as well. These included 9-year-old Jaremy Vazquez of Brooklyn, Eileen Zelis Aria, 35, of the Bronx, both passengers of the bus, and the bus driver, Shuang Quing Feng, 58, of Flushing, NY.
After the initial landing in the embankment, the bus slid and returned to the road before hitting the center median once again. This is when Feng was ejected from the vehicle. Aria and Vazquez were thrown from the bus when the bottom of the vehicle was struck by a FedEx truck.
A UPS truck then hit the tour bus, then a Mercedes hit the side of the UPS truck, which was also struck by another UPS tractor-trailer. It is unclear if weather conditions played a part in this pile up. More reports regarding the crash are to follow.
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