Highway Accident Report

Impact with Arched Stone Overpass of 70-Passenger
Double-Decked Sightseeing Bus
Alexandria, Virginia
April 4, 1987

NTIS NUMBER: PB87-916210
Adopted on 12/30/1987

The Accident

On April 4, 1987, a 70-passenger double-decked sightseeing bus carrying a driver and 65 passengers en route to Mount Vernon, Virginia, was traveling southbound in the right lane of the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway portion of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a four-lane highway approximately 3 1/2 miles south of Alexandria, Virginia. There were 24 persons on the main level, 34 persons on the upper level, 1 person on the stairs, and 6 persons whose locations could not be determined. About 7:15 p.m. e.s.t., the top of the bus struck the Alexandria Avenue arched stone overpass. The bus was estimated to have been traveling between 22 and 42 mph. As a result of the impact, the bus roof was sheared off rearward, exposing the upper seating level. The bus remained upright and there was no fire.

There were no other vehicles involved in the accident. According to the bus driver, it was dark and the weather was “misty.” At National Airport, approximately 7 miles north of the accident site, the temperature at 6:53 p.m. e.s.t. was 44° F, the dew point was 34° F, and the wind was from the southwest at 12 knots, no rain was reported, and the visibility was 12 miles. Twenty-eight minutes after the accident, light rain showers with a visibility of 10 statute miles were reported at National Airport.

A nearby resident, who was in his backyard, observed the bus traveling southbound in the right lane of the parkway, heard the crash, and had his wife report the accident to the U.S. Park Police. Several other residents reported the accident to the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department at approximately 7:23 p.m. On arrival at the scene, rescuers immediately started triage, and the incident commander established a command post.

Thirty-three passengers were transported to four area hospitals.- Alexandria, Mount Vernon, Fairfax, and the Washington D.C. Hospital Center. Twenty-five passengers with minor injuries were treated and released; 8 sustained minor to critical injuries and were hospitalized.

The busdriver exhibited symptoms of shock, was transported by ambulance to Alexandria Hospital, and was admitted for observation. Four passengers were transported by helicopter to Fairfax Hospital and the Washington Hospital Center. One passenger died approximately 10 hours after the accident from injuries sustained in the accident. All but one of the injured persons were on the upper level of the bus, and most of the severely injured were located toward the rear of the upper level The injured passenger on the main level and located in the last row of seats in the bus sustained a minor injury. There were no persons pinned or trapped in the bus wreckage.