UPDATED 4/13/17: Police found two entire marijuana cigarettes and five that had been partially smoked ones in the truck and an affidavit was filed stating that the truck driver admitted he took clonazepam and Lexapro and Ambien (generic forms) earlier that day.
UPDATED 4/3/17: Truck driver admits to texting while driving at 65 MPH for over 20 minutes. The church bus was a retrofitted Ford 350 van.
3/31/17: A New Braunfels church is devastated over the loss of 13 of its members in a horrifying head-on collision Wednesday afternoon. The choir members were travelling home from a retreat west of San Antonio when a huge Duelly pickup truck collided head-on into their van.
The impact tragically killed all but one of the van passengers. The survivor remains hospitalized in critical condition. They were seniors ranging in age to 87 years old. The driver of the pickup, a 20-year-old man, is in stable condition.
Before the wreck, callers had alerted police that the truck was swerving all over the road and was about to crash into other vehicles. Deputies were on their way to try to stop the catastrophe.
The accident is under investigation by federal officials. We can only speculate why the truck driver was swerving. Was he texting? Intoxicated? The National Transportation Safety Board is attempting to interview the driver.
No matter what the investigation reveals, there is one thing for certain — the driver should not have been on the road.
How Safe Are Buses?
This accident brings up another important issue. How safe are these charter buses and buses in general? There are about 3,300 of them crash each year, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Catastrophic collisions involving chartered buses have killed dozens of Texans over the past decade. Each wreck resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. Often the charter company had a previous history of mechanical problems before the crash.
And often there are insufficient insurance proceeds to pay the claims of the victims and their families. Federal law mandates that for hire passenger carriers maintain liability limits of $1.5 million if the bus seats 15 or less people and $5 million if it seats more than 15 people.
These are some of the bus accidents that killed or severely injured Texans over the past few years:
- Four seniors were killed earlier this month when their tour bus was hit by a train in Mississippi.
- In 2016, nine passengers were killed on a bus in South Texas.
- In 2016, three passengers of a truck died in a collision with a bus in West Texas.
- In 2015, eight inmates and two correctional officers on a prison bus died after their bus was hit by a train near Odessa.
- In 2015, a crash severely injured several people west of Fort Worth.
- In 2014, four softball players died and a dozen others were injurued after a tractor trailer veered across the median in southern Oklahoma
- In 2013, three passengers died after their bus hit the retaining wall in Irving.
- In 2008, 17 Vietnamese pilgrims returning from a religious festival died outside of Dallas after their van blew out its retread tire and skidded into a guardrail. The bus company was not licensed to operate and its owner was ordered to remove its buses from service after an unsatisfactory compliance review.
Clearly, federal and state officials need to investigate the safety of commercial buses and vans.
We offer our condolences to the families of the First Baptists Church members. We also hope that something will be done to ensure the safety of bus passengers in Texas.