“I imagine if you were in this accident, that it was scary,” National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy said Monday night in a media briefing.
Homendy, who was sworn onto the board in August 2018, had that impression after spending the day looking at the vehicles involved in Sunday morning’s crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that killed five and sent 60 to the hospital.
“This was the first day of what could be 24 months of investigation,” Homendy said. “Drone specialists conducted detailed surveys of the vehicles, we had investigators at the medical examiner and investigators processing the vehicles.
“We looked at the motor coach, the Fed-Ex truck, one of the UPS trucks and two of the trailers. I thought it was devastating.”
Homendy expects the NTSB to be on site for seven to 10 days to collect perishable evidence and investigate, so that a preliminary report can be delivered at the end of that time. The report will contain no analysis.
The analysis will come in the final report in 18-24 months. The presentation of that report is open to the public.
Homendy said the investigation’s process was explained to victims found in the hospitals when they were interviewed on Monday. She knows that some victims left the hospital before NTSB officials were able to talk with them. They are asked to contact the agency at firstname.lastname@example.org so they can be interviewed.
Shuang Qing Feng, 58, was driving the motor coach that started in Flushing, N.Y. at 10 p.m. After stops in Manhattan and Hackensack, New Jersey, the bus with 56 passengers aboard was 10 miles east of New Stanton, when the crash occurred. There would have been a crew swap in New Stanton before the motor coach traveled to Cincinnati and Louisville and then returned to Flushing.
A short time after passing the FedEx truck, Feng lost control of the motor coach and it struck the concrete median barrier. The motor coach came back across the travel lanes, went up an embankment and rolled onto its side where it came to rest blocking the road.
Homendy said the FedEx truck “came upon the vehicle, could not stop and hit the motor coach. One of the UPS trucks also hit the motor coach. Another UPS truck and a Mercedes were also involved in the accident,” she said.
Dennis Kehler of Lebanon and Daniel Kepner of Lewistown were in one of the UPS trucks and were killed in the crash.
Homendy said they do not know at this time if speed contributed to the crash. She said state police retrieved the engine control module of the motor coach, which could help in determining if there were issues with the vehicle, or if the driver was speeding.
Records show that the motor coach was last inspected on Dec. 17, and no issues were found. Feng had a satisfactory rating with no violations and no issues on his record with the company. He wasn’t due for his next two-year review until November 2020, the NTSB found.
Homendy said the NTSB investigation will involve looking at roadway design, construction and treatment for weather conditions.
“We look at roadway design in each investigation,” she said. “There was a resurfacing in 2019 of westbound lanes and it was in good shape.”
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