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Accident Report Detail

Motorcoach Run-Off-The-Road

Executive Summary

On May 9, 1999, about 9:00 a.m., a 1997 Motor Coach Industries 55-passenger motorcoach, operated by Custom Bus Charters, Incorporated, was traveling eastbound on Interstate 610 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The bus, carrying 43 passengers, was en route from La Place, Louisiana, to a casino approximately 80 miles away in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. As the bus approached milepost 1.6, it departed the right side of the highway, crossed the shoulder, and went onto the grassy side slope alongside the shoulder. The bus continued on the side slope, struck the terminal end of a guardrail, traveled through a chain-link fence, vaulted over a paved golf cart path, collided with the far side of a dirt embankment, and then bounced and slid forward upright to its final resting position. Twenty-two passengers were killed, the busdriver and 15 passengers received serious injuries, and 6 passengers received minor injuries.

The ensuing investigation established that the 46-year-old driver possessed a current commercial driver’s license and medical certificate, but suffered from several life-threatening medical conditions of the kidneys and heart. A witness riding in a van behind the bus stated that before the accident, she saw the bus drifting from the left lane to the center lane, then back to the left lane, before finally crossing the center and right lanes and departing the right side of the road. These observations corresponded with the statements of a passenger, who saw the busdriver "slouch down" as if reaching for a soda and then upright himself before slouching down again. The next thing this passenger remembered was waking up in the hospital.

Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the driver’s incapacitation due to his severe medical conditions and the failure of the medical certification process to detect and remove the driver from service. Other factors that may have had a role in the accident were the driver’s fatigue and the driver’s use of marijuana and a sedating antihistamine.

Accident Location: New Orleans , LA    
Accident Date: 5/9/1999
Accident ID: HWY99MH017

Date Adopted: 8/28/2001
NTSB Number: HAR-01-01
NTIS Number: PB2001-916201