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Accident Report Detail

Impact with Arched Stone Overpass of 70-Passenger Double-decked Sightseeing Bus on the George Washington Memorial Parkway

Executive Summary

​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.

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.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the busdriver to anticipate and to recognize his approach to the low clearance overpass and move the bus into the left lane in time to allow it to clear the overpass. Contributing to the accident was the lack of appropriate advance warning of the low clearance, the inadequate delineation of the overpass by means of artificial illumination or reflective signing, and the driver's recent use of illicit drugs.

Accident Location: Alexandria , VA    
Accident Date: 4/4/1987
Accident ID: DCA87MH004

Date Adopted: 12/30/1987
NTSB Number: HAR-87-04-SUM
NTIS Number: PB87-916210

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