Passenger Bus, Out-of-control Semi Collide in New Mexico
Early reports say 7 bus passengers dead, dozens injured
Seven people are reported dead, and at least a dozen more have been seriously injured, after a refrigerated tractor-trailer rig carrying produce and a passenger bus collided in rural New Mexico. Initial reports state that, in addition to the bus and the semi, a pickup truck and an automobile may have been involved as well but those reports have yet to be confirmed.
Although details of the accident are incomplete, witnesses report that the semi was in the eastbound lane of Interstate 40 near the town of Thoreau NM when it apparently suffered a blowout involving its left front tire, causing the driver of the semi to lose control of his vehicle. The truck crossed the highway median before colliding almost head-on with the westbound bus. The accident caused an hours-long shutdown of Interstate Highway 40, a major east-west highway beginning near Wilmington NC and terminating in Barstow CA.
A spokesman for Greyhound, the bus's owner, said the bus was operating on Greyhound Route #1333 and was enroute from St. Louis MO to Los Angeles CA when the accident occurred at about 12:30 PM (MDT). According to a timetable published on Greyhound's website, the bus was running about 2 hours behind its published schedule but the bus's speed does not appear to have been a factor in the accident.
The accident is currently being investigated by the New Mexico State Police although a team from the National Transportation Safety Board was reported to be enroute and is expected to be at the scene by midmorning Friday, August 31.
Although the details of the accident are at best preliminary and are more speculation than fact at this time, analysis of publicly-available television news footage and witness reports suggest the following scenario.
At about 12:30 PM (MDT) a tractor-trailer rig was traveling east on Interstate 40 near Exit 53 / Thoreau when it suffered a blowout involving its left-front (steering) tire. The truck's driver lost control of that vehicle, which crossed the dirt and grass highway median before striking a westbound Greyhound passenger bus just behind the bus driver's position. The combined effects of the truck's blowout and the jostling of crossing the median caused the trailer to separate from the truck and overturn, scattering its cargo across both the eastbound and westbound lanes of the highway. The truck's cab was destroyed.
The bus sustained extensive damage to its front 1/3 and many of its passengers were trapped inside until they were freed by EMS and traffic safety personnel from a local State Police station. Although not confirmed, it appears that all fatalities were occupants of the bus.
At present, it is presumed that this accident's chain of events is directly related to the sudden failure of the semi's left front tire and the truck driver's loss of control of his vehicle. If this is indeed the case, it would seem to establish the tire maker is at least partially liable for the accident and its consequences. At the Doan Law Firm, we will be following future developments in this accident and will provide factual updates as they become available.