Experts Say Bus That Crashed In KY May Have Been Overloaded

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A bus that crashed on a rural stretch of
Interstate 65 in southern Kentucky, killing the driver and a
passenger and injuring 65, was likely carrying more people than it
was designed for, industry and safety experts said Tuesday.
The bus driver, Abraham Parker, 63, of Birmingham, Ala., died
Tuesday at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tenn.,
hospital spokesman Jerry Jones said. A passenger, Carrie Walton,
71, died at the scene early Monday.
Kentucky State Police said a preliminary investigation indicated
that the cause of the crash was that the driver apparently dozed
off and ran off the road, striking an overpass support about 75
miles north of Nashville.
Trooper Steve Pavey said Tuesday the number of people on the bus
as well as the vehicle's speed will be part of the investigation
and reconstruction of the wreck.
Melissa Mazzella DeLaney, a spokeswoman for the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration, said the agency is conducting a
"compliance review" of the company. The review will look at
Parker's commercial driver's license and hours of service, company
insurance records and the upkeep of the bus.
The 1987 model bus, made by Motor Coach Industries of
Schaumburg, Ill., had 67 aboard when it crashed en route from
Niagara Falls, N.Y., to Alabama. Most motor coaches on the road
today are designed to carry a maximum of 55 people, said Eron
Shosteck, vice president of communications for the American Bus
Association in Washington, D.C.
"That's the design that has through years of testing and
research been shown to be the optimal," Shosteck said.
A call to C&R Tours in Birmingham, Ala., was not immediately
returned Tuesday. C&R had a satisfactory safety rating when it was
last reviewed in March, according to the U.S. Department of
Transportation. It had not reported any accidents or injuries in
the last two years.
Pat Plodzeen, a spokeswoman for Motor Coach Industries, would
not comment about the capacity of the bus that crashed near Bowling
Green early Monday.
"I can't comment on this specific coach," Plodzeen said. "It
would be speculation."
A child, 7-year-old Kayalon Jackson, remained in critical
condition Tuesday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Jones
said. Two other passengers were in stable condition, Jones said.
Ten people were in stable condition at The Medical Center in
Bowling Green, spokeswoman Doris Thomas said. One person at
Greenview Regional Hospital was transferred to a hospital in
Demopolis, Ala., near Forkland, according to spokeswoman Kelly
The bus was carrying members of an extended family home to
Alabama from a family reunion in Niagara Falls, N.Y., officials
said. Most were from rural Forkland, Ala., about 100 miles
southwest of Birmingham.
Forkland Mayor Eddie Woods said Tuesday that local churches sent
buses to bring people home as they are released from the hospital
and from a Red Cross shelter in Bowling Green.
State police said there were 42 adult passengers, 23 children
and two drivers on the bus that crashed.
Rather than put more passengers and luggage on a bus, the "safe
thing to do is to use a second motor coach," Shosteck said.
Plodzeen, of MCI, referred questions about the capacity of the
bus to the company's Web site. MCI makes at least seven styles of
bus, the largest of which is designed to carry 57 passengers,
according to the company's Web page.
Gary Mattiacci, a transportation safety and reconstruction
expert in Sterling Heights, Mich., said while most tour buses don't
have seat belts, having more passengers than seating can lead to
more injuries in a crash. That's because someone is more likely to
be thrown from a passenger's lap or across the bus if they are
sitting on a floor than if they were in a seat, which can serve as
a cushion or barrier, he said.
"There's a lot of issues with a bus being overloaded,"
Mattiacci said. "It's a real problem."
Associated Press writer Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Ala.,
contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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