April 14, 2014 12:00 PM, EDT
NTSB Expects Preliminary Report on FedEx Calif. Crash in About a Month

The National Transportation Safety Board is assessing a series of questions surrounding last week’s crash of a FedEx Freight tractor-trailer and a bus in Northern California that killed 10 people and said it will have a preliminary report in about 30 days.

NTSB launched a “go-team” to investigate the crash, in which the truck, carrying a double-trailer, crossed over the center median on Interstate 5 and hit the motor coach head-on in Orland, Calif., on April 10. Both drivers and eight passengers on the bus were killed, including five high school students.

Some reports over the weekend — including the driver of a car the truck reportedly swiped after it crossed the median and before it hit the bus — said the truck may have been on fire before impact. The driver took a cellphone video that the agency is examining, NTSB member Mark Rosekind said at an April 13 press conference.

Rosekind said NTSB did not rule out that possibility but that there was “no evidence of pre-impact fire” on the truck. He said a blood test of the FedEx truck driver could indicate whether he inhaled smoke before his death.

FedEx Freight is the less-than-truckload unit of FedEx Corp., which ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

FedEx and the bus company, San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Silverado Stages, have “satisfactory” safety ratings from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the highest rating available, Bloomberg News reported.

A FedEx spokeswoman told Bloomberg the company was not aware of cargo that would have caused or contributed to the blaze after the crash. FedEx said immediately after the crash that it would “cooperate fully” with NTSB’s investigation.

NTSB said one of truck’s trailers was partially loaded and the other was empty. It said that FedEx would provide an “exemplar” similar truck for the investigation. USA Today and the Associated Press reported the truck was a 2007 model.

NTSB also said the bus did not have a second door exit except for a handicapped door that could only be opened by the driver. The bus’s windows could be used as exits, it said.

The agency also was analyzing the stretch of highway on which the crash occurred. That portion did not have barriers, which are required in medians 50 feet wide or less to avoid crossover crashes. The median at the crash site was 60 feet wide, news reports said.