NTSB Concludes Truck Driver Was Likely High During Crash That Killed 4 College Studentsby Jana Ritter - Published: 11/18/2015
The federal investigation of last year’s deadly crash that killed four female softball players from North Central Texas College has concluded that the semi truck driver was likely high on synthetic marijuana at the time of the crash. While he only represents a small margin of commercial truck drivers who drive under the influence, the results of the report are causing many to question whether the industry is doing enough to test drivers.
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The crash occurred on September 26, 2014 on the Interstate 35 in Oklahoma when truck driver, Russell Staley, had veered across the median and slammed into an oncoming bus carrying the North Central Texas College women’s softball team. Four young female students, all under age 21, died in the crash and five were seriously injured. Staley had told investigators that he had been distracted by something in the main cabin of his truck when veered across the median and slammed into the team’s bus. However, the NTSB now says that Staley’s drug use was the primary cause of the crash based on his toxicology reports, history of drug use and documented behavior at the time of the crash. “The truck-tractor continued through the median, traveling over 1,100 feet without evidence of braking or steering,” states the NTSB report. The report further specifies that based on the results of drug tests that Staley took following the crash; he had been high on synthetic marijuana. Cpt. Paul Timmons of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol oversaw the crash site investigation and confirmed that Staley had been tested within two hours after the crash occurred. "When you have an accident of this magnitude, where you have serious injury or death involved, like in this case, it's our practice, our policy that we do - blood test or breath test," Timmons said.
Not surprisingly, the results of the investigation now has agencies urging the trucking industry to do more to detect drivers that may be under the influence – before getting behind the wheel. David Druschel, director of training at American Truck Training in Oklahoma, has had more than 45 years of experience in the industry and agrees that it’s a problem that needs to be addressed. "It happens out there. There's guys out there that still do it,” he said. “It's just that companies need to get more stringent on their drug tests. I think the companies should increase their tests. If the companies crack down more, I believe that people would take them more serious."
"It's the one bad apple that has brought the eyes on the whole trucking industry," Druschel added.