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Accident Report Detail

School Bus Run-Off-Road and Fire

Executive Summary

On the morning of December 12, 2017, a school bus operated by the Riverside Community School District backed into a ditch on a rural road outside Oakland, Iowa, after picking up its first passenger, a 16-year-old female student. While the driver tried to drive the bus out of the ditch, a fire began in the engine compartment and spread throughout the bus. The driver and passenger died in the fire. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation focused on school bus driver fitness for duty, school bus fire safety, and school bus emergency training. The NTSB made safety recommendations to the US Department of Transportation; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 44 states (including Iowa), the District of Columbia, and the territory of Puerto Rico; the state of Iowa; the Riverside Community School District; three school transportation associations; and seven school bus manufacturers. The NTSB also reiterated one recommendation to NHTSA and reclassified a previously issued recommendation to the three school transportation associations.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determines that the probable cause of the fatal school bus run-off-road and fire in Oakland, Iowa, was (1) the driver’s failure to control the bus, backing it into a roadside ditch for reasons that could not be established; and (2) the failure of the Riverside Community School District to provide adequate oversight by allowing a driver to operate a school bus with a known physical impairment that limited his ability to perform emergency duties. The probable cause of the fire was ignition of a fuel source on the exterior of the engine’s turbocharger due to turbocharger overload and heat production, resulting from the blockage of the exhaust pipe by the bus’s position in the ditch and the driver’s attempts to accelerate out of the ditch. Contributing to the severity of the fire was the spread of flames, heat, and toxic gases from the engine into the passenger compartment through an incomplete firewall.

Accident Location: Oakland , IA    
Accident Date: 12/12/2017
Accident ID: HWY18MH003

Date Adopted: 6/18/2019
NTSB Number: HAR-19-01
NTIS Number: PB2019-100808