WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — When a tractor trailer struck the rear of a bus last month carrying more than 20 people in Virginia, the passenger compartment of the bus was destroyed and several passengers were ejected, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report Tuesday.
Three of the 23 bus passengers died from their injuries and the remaining passengers and survived with varying injuries along with both drivers, authorities said.
Advertised as a “party bus," the bus featured limousine-style bench seating around its perimeter and was carrying the passengers eastbound on Interstate 64 near Williamsburg when the accident occurred early on Dec. 16, according to the preliminary NTSB report.
The report said a Freightliner Cascadia truck-tractor approached the bus in the far right lane at a higher speed and collided with the rear of the bus.
An image of the vehicles released with the NTSB report showed “catastrophic” damage to the body of the bus and damage to the front of the tractor trailer. The report stated that the crash remains under investigation while investigators seek to determine the probable cause.
Virginia State Police have said that alcohol and speed contributed to the crash. The state police investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed, 1st Sgt. Eugene R. Desaulniers said in an email Tuesday.
Court documents state that the party bus had been modified and the driver told police it couldn’t go above 40 mph (65 kph), WAVY-TV reported. The bus driver told investigators that in his mirror, he saw the truck approaching very fast and began to change lanes when the bus was hit.
The truck driver told investigators that he drove up on the bus but did not see any tail lights at the time, according to court documents.