School Bus Inspection Records Altered After Fatal Fire

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POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY, Iowa — Investigators have released new information in the case where a bus caught fire killing two people in western Iowa last year.

According to the Des Moines Register, mechanical repair records for the Riverside Community School District bus were changed a week after the fatal fire.

Following an inspection which occurred six days before the fire, the bus was ordered to stop transporting students. An exit lock signal and outside warning light were both not working at the time of the inspection.

The school district reported the fixes were made on a handwritten note the same day as the inspection.

The state requires all bus repairs to be reported with the state before it can start transportation again, but the school failed to do so.

Those same fixes weren’t reported to the state until at least seven days after the accident.

Federal investigators and the National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating.

UPDATE: The Riverside Community School District provided this statement online:

“The Riverside Community School District rejects any characterization that inspection or maintenance records for bus #4 were altered.  Following the December 6 inspection of the bus, the District immediately completed all repairs noted for bus #4.  The District documented that these repairs were made, and this documentation is unchanged.  The on-site inspector from the Iowa Department of Education instructed the District to additionally note the repairs in the Department’s online system, once the inspection report was available there.  The report did not become available until December 15, three days after the accident occurred.  In the ensuing weeks, the District noted repairs for all buses that had been repaired, including bus #4, in the online system as instructed by the Department.  There is no dispute that the necessary repairs for bus #4 were completed before the accident on December 12.  Our focus has always been, and remains, on the student and employee we lost that day and ensuring the safety of our students and staff.

Tim Mitchell
Riverside Community School District