The government shutdown means that the National Transportation Safety Board has no personnel to investigate the horrible bus crash that took place on Interstate 40 in Jefferson County, Tennessee on October 2, 2013.
The bus was filled with members of the Young at Heart program of the Front Baptist Church in Statesville, North Carolina, who had been attending a conference in Tennessee.
Eight people died in the crash and another 14 persons were injured. The crash has been linked to a front tire on the bus. The bus crossed the median and hit a tractor-trailer and a SUV before it came to a stop on its side. Six people on the bus died, as did two other people.
The NTSB tends to investigate major traffic incidents involving buses, especially those that result in multiple injuries and deaths. The addition of the NTSB to the scene increases the likelihood that all of the evidence will be appropriately gathered and evaluated. The Tennessee Highway Patrol will conduct its own investigation and undoubtedly will make every effort to do a through job, but the scene is massive and assistance from the professionals at the NTSB would be beneficial.
There is no doubt that the liability insurance company for the church, the tractor-trailer company, and perhaps event the SUV had investigators on the scene very quickly. Commercial liability insurers frequently have a team consisting of a lawyer and engineer(s) that are called into to every tragic accident to gather physical evidence and interview witnesses. Thus, while the families of the victims are in mourning or the victims themselves are still in the hospital, the defense of the case is already being prepared. This is yet another reason why the NTSB’s assistance would be helpful in this matter.
The fact that the NTSB is not investigating this matter also reminds us that a shutdown in the government has consequences that are often not readily apparent, much less thought about in advance.