Traffic safety engineers and accident reconstruction experts spent two hours Sunday on Interstate 565 taking measurements and photographing and examining the site of November’s deadly school bus crash.
The crew, including accident reconstruction experts from Colorado, were hired by attorneys representing the families of students killed or injured in the crash.
“For the magnitude of this tragedy, we are doing the utmost preparation and we have the best investigators in America here today so we can compare their findings to those of local, state and federal investigators,” said Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel. “My hope, my sincere hope, is that, as a result of this today, the children of our nation will be safer.”
McDaniel said there have been preliminary reports completed on the crash, but it will probably be a year before the final federal investigative report is complete.
He said he and other attorneys wanted to get their own report to help in making decisions about lawsuits.
“We will be filing lawsuits soon, I can’t say at this point who they’ll be against,” McDaniel said.
There are 19 families with legal representation, he said. Several lawsuits are expected to be filed within the next month, he said.
“This has been such a tragedy,” McDaniel said. “It’s not just the physical injuries but the emotional trauma these kids have been facing; it’s like they were in a combat zone.”
The attorneys arranged with the Alabama Department of Transportation to have Exit 19B for westbound traffic on I-565 closed from 1 to 3 p.m. That allowed the team of paid experts to examine the roadway where the school bus, loaded with 40 Lee High School students, collided with a 1990 Toyota Celica driven by a 17-year-old Lee student on Nov. 20.
After the collision, the bus careened over a retaining wall and fell 30 feet to the ground. Four students died from the crash – Christine Collier, Nicole Ford, Tanesha Hill and Crystalle McCrary. About 30 other students were injured.
The bus driver, who was not wearing a seat belt as required by state law, was thrown out of the bus before it went off the overpass.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, which spurred debate about whether school buses should be required to provide seat belts for student passengers. Currently, only the bus driver is required to be belted.
The first crash-related lawsuit was filed this month by Ford’s family, citing the lack of seat belts. Defendants in the suit include Laidlaw Transit, the bus driver and the driver of the Celica.