NTSB to Determine Cause of Fatal Grade Crossing Crash

A casino tour bus became stuck on a humped grade crossing in Biloxi, Miss., on March 7, 2017, and was struck by a CSX Transportation freight train. Four bus passengers were killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board will meet Aug. 7 to determine the probable cause of the March 7, 2017, collision of an ECHO Transportation motorcoach and a CSX freight train near Biloxi, Miss. The crash occurred at a humped grade crossing after the bus became stuck on the tracks, according to previously released board information.

Four of the 49 bus passengers died in the crash, and the bus driver and 37 other passengers were injured.

The crash occurred about 2:12 p.m. local time. The bus was make a multi-day casino tour that started in Bastrop, Texas. The passengers were staying at a casino in Bay St. Louis, Miss., from which they planned visits to other casinos in the area, including in Biloxi and New Orleans. NTSB has reported that the crash occurred when the bus was traveling from Bay St. Louis to a casino in Biloxi, and while the tour's normal trip routing was along Interstate 10, on the day of the crash, the tour operator changed to a more scenic route along the coast, an alternate route that had been used in previous trips.

Preliminary results from the motorcoach driver's toxicology test was negative for alcohol and other drugs. The train crew was not tested, nor were they required to be tested.

The crossing was marked with a crossbuck sign, warning lights, a gate, and a low ground clearance grade crossing warning sign with a low ground clearance plaque. After the bus became stuck, the driver attempted to free it by trying to move the vehicle backward and forward. When he saw the train approaching, he opened the front door of the bus and told the passengers to evacuate. According to the board, the train engineer sounded the train's horn and put the train into emergency braking about 510 feet west of the crossing. The train had decelerated to about 19 mph when it struck the left side of the motorcoach, pushing it about 203 feet before coming to a stop with the motorcoach still engaged to the lead locomotive.

NTSB investigators along with personnel from the Biloxi Police Department documented the mechanical condition of the motorcoach, the crash location, and the physical characteristics of the crossing. The track and operational characteristics of the crossing signals were also examined and documented. NTSB investigators were examining issues related to the railroad grade crossing signage and maintenance, as well as the crashworthiness of the motorcoach and trip routing.

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