Highway Accident Report

15-Passenger Van Single-Vehicle
Rollover Accidents,
Henrietta, Texas, May 8, 2001,
and Randleman, North Carolina,
July 1, 2001

NTSB Number HAR-03/03
NTIS Number PB2003-916203
PDF Document (2 MB)

Executive Summary:

On May 8, 2001, about 8:57 a.m., central daylight time, a 1993 Dodge Ram 15-passenger van was eastbound on U.S. Route 82 near Henrietta, Texas, en route from Burkburnett, Texas, to an outlet mall in Gainesville, Texas. The driver and 11 passengers, all members of the First Assembly of God Church, occupied the van. As the vehicle approached milepost 538 in the left lane, at a calculated speed of 61 to 67 mph, the left rear tire experienced a tread separation and blowout; subsequently, the van departed the roadway and rolled over at least two times in the median, ejecting seven passengers before coming to final rest. The driver and three of the ejected passengers sustained fatal injuries, and eight passengers sustained serious injuries.

On July 1, 2001, about 2:30 p.m., eastern daylight time, a 1989 Dodge Ram 15-passenger van was northbound in the left lane on U.S. Route 220, near Randleman, North Carolina, en route from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Roanoke, Virginia. The van, owned by Virginia Heights Baptist Church of Roanoke, Virginia, was occupied by the driver and 13 passengers, ages 13 to 19. As the vehicle approached the Level Cross, North Carolina, exit, at a witness-estimated speed of 65 mph, the left rear tire experienced a tread separation and blowout; subsequently, the van moved from the left lane into the right lane, then back into the left lane, where it overturned and came to rest in the travel lanes. During the accident sequence, four passengers were ejected, one of whom was fatally injured and three of whom sustained serious injuries; the driver and the other nine passengers sustained injuries ranging from none to serious.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the accidents was tire failure, the drivers’ response to that failure, and the drivers’ inability to maintain control of their vans. Contributing to the accidents was the deteriorated condition of the tires, as a result of the churches’ lack of tire maintenance, and the handling characteristics of the vans. Contributing to the severity of the injuries was the lack of appropriate Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards applicable to 15-passenger vans in the areas of restraints and occupant protection.

The major safety issues discussed in this report are 15-passenger van classification, driver training, occupant protection, and tire condition, inspection, and maintenance.

As a result of its investigation of these accidents, the Safety Board makes recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the 50 States and the District of Columbia, the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, the American Automobile Association, the National Safety Council, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation.