NTSB Meeting June 18 to Determine Cause of 2017 School Bus Fire

NTSB board members will determine the probable cause of an incident that killed a 74-year-old school bus driver and a 16-year-old student passenger when the bus caught fire near Oakland, Iowa, on Dec. 12, 2017.

The National Transportation Safety Board has announced a June 18 meeting where board members will determine the probable cause of an incident that killed a 74-year-old school bus driver and a 16-year-old student passenger when the bus caught fire near Oakland, Iowa. The fire occurred about 6:50 a.m. on Dec. 12, 2017.

According to NTSB's preliminary report, the driver of the 2004 International school bus turned into a driveway and picked up his first passenger, the 16-year-old student. As the bus backed out of the driveway, its right rear tandem wheels crossed a 3-foot-wide earthen strip adjacent to the road and dropped into a 3-foot-deep ditch. "Although still in contact with the ground, the right rear drive wheels lost traction, and the bus became stuck with about half of the vehicle positioned across the gravel roadway. The driver attempted to move the bus forward out of the ditch. As he was doing so, a fire began in the engine compartment and spread into the passenger compartment. Sometime during this event, the grass and vegetation at the rear of the school bus also caught fire," the report states. "For unknown reasons, the driver and student passenger did not exit the school bus. Both occupants died as a result of the fire."

The school bus was owned and operated by the Riverside Community School District. It went into service in 2005. NTSB investigators found the bus had potentially been subject to four recall campaigns, and the agency determined that three of the recalls applied to the bus, while the fourth recall, addressing a power steering pump failure that could cause a fire, did not apply to this specific bus model. The three applicable recalls were designed to correct issues with a sensor used in the antilock brake system, a sensor used in the side-mounted swing-out stop arm, and the wiring harness to the stepwell heater blower motor. The agency's investigators did confirm that the three recalls were performed.

The bus was equipped with a continuous onboard video recording system, but it was severely damaged by the fire. The report states that the NTSB Recorders Laboratory determined there were no recoverable data.

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