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Accident Report Detail

Multivehicle Collision, Interstate 44 Eastbound

Executive Summary

On Thursday morning, August 5, 2010, in Gray Summit, Missouri, traffic slowed in the approach to an active work zone on eastbound Interstate 44 (I-44), as motor vehicles merged from the closed left lane to the right lane. A 2007 Volvo truck-tractor with no trailer was traveling eastbound in the right lane and had slowed or stopped behind traffic. About 10:11 a.m. central daylight time, a 2007 GMC Sierra extended cab pickup truck merged from the left to the right lane and struck the rear of the Volvo tractor. This collision was the first in a series of three.

A convoy of two school buses from St. James High School, St. James, Missouri, was traveling eastbound in the right lane of I-44, approaching the slowed traffic and the collision ahead. Their destination was the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park in Eureka, Missouri. The lead bus was a 71-passenger school bus, occupied by 23 passengers. Following closely behind the lead bus was a 72-passenger school bus, occupied by 31 passengers. Seconds after the lead bus passed a motorcoach that had pulled over and stopped on the shoulder, it struck the rear of the GMC pickup. This collision – the second in the series – pushed the pickup forward, overturning it onto the back of the Volvo tractor. The front of the lead bus was ramped upward, as it came to rest on top of the GMC pickup and the Volvo tractor. Moments later, the following school bus struck the right rear of the lead bus.

As a result of this accident sequence, the driver of the GMC pickup and one passenger seated in the rear of the lead school bus were killed. A total of 35 passengers from both buses, the 2 bus drivers, and the driver of the Volvo tractor received injuries ranging from minor to serious. Eighteen people were uninjured.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the initial Gray Summit collision was distraction, likely due to a text messaging conversation being conducted by the GMC pickup driver, which resulted in his failure to notice and react to a Volvo tractor that had slowed or stopped in response to a queue that had developed in a work zone. The second collision, between the lead school bus and the GMC pickup, was the result of the bus driver's inattention to the forward roadway due to excessive focus on a motorcoach parked on the shoulder of the road. The final collision was due to the driver of the following school bus not maintaining the recommended minimum distance from the lead school bus in the seconds preceding the accident. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the lack of forward collision warning systems on the two school buses.​

Accident Location: Gray Summit , MO    
Accident Date: 8/5/2010
Accident ID: HWY10MH018

Date Adopted: 12/13/2011
NTSB Number: HAR-11-03
NTIS Number: PB2011-916203