Investigation Underway Following Fatal Ohio Highway Accident with High School Students on Board

by Ryan Lee
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Ohio Interstate Crash

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is set to begin their investigation on Wednesday at the site of a tragic accident on an Ohio highway. The crash, which involved a charter bus carrying high school students, resulted in six fatalities and 18 injuries.

Jennifer Homendy, Chair of the NTSB, indicated that the investigation team will search for video footage and other forms of evidence from the five vehicles implicated in the collision. This incident occurred on Tuesday on Interstate 70 in Licking County, approximately 42 kilometers east of Columbus. Homendy projected a five to seven-day investigation duration, with an initial report expected in the coming weeks.

The accident’s specifics remain uncertain, with Homendy citing “conflicting information” about the event sequence leading to the multi-vehicle collision, which included an SUV and a semitruck. The bus, owned by Pioneer Trails, was transporting students and chaperones from the Tuscarawas Valley Local School District in eastern Ohio.

Details on the accident will be further disclosed in a news conference scheduled for Wednesday afternoon by the NTSB.

Three individuals aboard the bus, which carried 54 passengers including students and chaperones, were declared deceased at the crash site, as reported by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The deceased were identified as John W. Mosely, 18, Jeffery D. Worrell, 18, and Katelyn N. Owens, 15.

The group was en route to a conference hosted by the Ohio School Boards Association in Columbus, as informed by Derek Varansky, Superintendent of Tuscarawas Valley. The conference, considered the nation’s second-largest educational event, was canceled on its final day following news of the crash. The conference, starting Sunday, had featured professional development sessions and a Student Achievement Fair.

In a community prayer vigil, Varansky expressed deep sorrow, calling the day of the crash the darkest in the district’s history. He spoke of honoring the deceased and supporting the survivors and the entire school community during this challenging period.

Despite the tragedy, school remained in session on Wednesday, with Varansky emphasizing the need for students not to be alone. He noted that it would be an atypical day, with counselors and support staff providing assistance.

Also killed in the crash were three individuals in a passenger vehicle – a teacher and two parent chaperones. They were identified as Dave Kennat, 56, Kristy Gaynor, 39, and Shannon Wigfield, 45. Wigfield, a teacher at Buckeye Career Center, was known for her positive demeanor and extensive teaching career.

The driver of another passenger vehicle involved was hospitalized, while one of the commercial vehicle drivers was treated for non-life-threatening injuries, and the other was attended to at the scene.

Two students remain hospitalized with serious but non-critical injuries, as per district officials.

Interstate 70 faced closures on both sides for several hours following the accident, causing significant traffic delays. The eastbound lanes reopened later on Tuesday, and the westbound lanes early on Wednesday. Ohio State Highway Patrol and Transportation Department personnel were present at the site, conducting their work on the westbound shoulder while keeping the interstate open.

Tori Wilson, a student on the bus, recounted her harrowing experience during the accident in an interview with WBNS-TV. She described a chaotic scene, with attempts to help injured students while the bus was on fire.

The crash is the second recent fatal incident in the U.S. involving a charter bus with high school students. In September, a similar accident occurred in New York.

Following a separate incident in August, Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine formed a School Bus Safety Working Group. The group is set to meet next Thursday to discuss various safety topics, with a final meeting planned for December 1. Recommendations are expected by year’s end, though it’s uncertain how the recent crash involving a charter bus will be addressed in the final report.

Contributors to this report include Ron Todt from Philadelphia and Bruce Shipkowski from Toms River, New Jersey.

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