WASHINGTON D.C. — The National Transportation Safety Board met Tuesday morning to determine what caused a deadly fire on an Iowa school bus in 2017.
It happened December 12th, 2017 on a Riverside Community School bus in western Iowa. The fire happened when school bus driver 74-year-old Donald Hendricks backed into a ditch. Both Hendricks and his passenger, 16-year-old Megan Klindt, died in the fire.
Tuesday morning, the National Transportation Safety Board chairman said the Riverside Community School District didn’t make sure the driver was medically fit.
The board is recommending all school bus drivers undergo physical performance tests when they’re hired and then every year.
“School District administrators. Let me ask you this: If this tragedy happened in your School District, wouldn’t you act to ensure your drivers were medically fit?
We know, we know there’s a shortage of school bus drivers, but the solution cannot be to augment the ranks of safe drivers with drivers who are unsafe due to a medical condition, even a temporary one.
Keeping an unfit driver on the road, it isn’t kindness, once there’s a crash, it is cruelty to him and to an untold Member of passengers and families and other road users,” said Robert Sumwalt, Chairman of the National Transportation and Safety Board.
The board also wants all school buses retrofitted to include fire suppression systems. They say that might have saved Klindt and Hendricks.
Superintendent for the Riverside Community School District, Timothy Mitchell, issued this statement on the NTSB hearing:
The Riverside School District appreciates the work of the National Transportation Board (NTSB) in this matter. The district has fully cooperated in the investigation. Our top priority is the safety of our students and staff.
The Iowa Department of Education also issued a statement on the NTSB’s recommendations:
“We thank the National Transportation Safety Board for these comprehensive recommendations, which we will review closely along with Iowa laws and rules. The tragedy in Oakland caused our agency to take additional steps to keep students safe on school buses. We asked the State Board of Education to adopt new rules to ensure school bus evacuation drills are being completed twice a year as required by law, to require more safety equipment on school buses, including seatbelts and additional stop arms on all new buses, and to require inspections of all vehicles used to carry students to school activities. Although school bus accidents and fatalities are rare in Iowa, keeping students safe is our top priority and we’ll continue to look for ways to improve.”
Look for more on this story from Whitney Blakemore on the Channel 13 News at Four.