There are still big questions about a bus accident near Carbondale last weekend. The Colorado State Patrol says a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus hit a concrete barrier after swerving around another vehicle. But the agency continues to collect information to figure out what happened… and the agency responsible for the bus says there may be two different stories.
Reporter: A fifty four year old man from Glenwood Springs was behind the wheel Saturday night when a westbound RFTA bus careened into a concrete barrier. State Patrol Trooper Nate Reid said Monday, October 28th, much of the agency’s original report is still accurate… including what happened when the bus approached a sluggish tractor.
Nate Reid: “The bus obviously was going highway speed and noticed the tractor in an attempt to get out of the tractor’s way and into the left lane, the bus lost control.”
Reporter: Skidding and then crashing and rolling onto its side. No one died, but eleven people ended up in the hospital… some with serious injuries. The State Patrol has not cited the driver. Trooper Reid explained the agency’s main goal is to thoroughly understand what happened Saturday night. Reid said the agency, working with the District Attorney, will carefully review the accident. RFTA, is doing similar work according to CEO Dan Blankenship.
Dan Blankenship: “We’re still conducting our investigation, and what we know is that there is the version that the State Patrol is working off of in terms of what caused the accident. We think that there might be another version that our driver and possibly at least one other witness that was on the scene, had about how the accident occurred. They’re slightly different, and what we’re trying to do is gather information so that we can reconcile the differences or we can determine whether one version is more correct than the other. A lot of people probably drove by the tractor at some point in the evening, or maybe after the accident happened or perhaps they were behind the bus. So we kind of need all of those different perspectives to be able to put together the different pieces of this puzzle to have a better understanding of what happened.”
Reporter: Aren’t there cameras on the busses?
Blankenship: “There are cameras on the busses, but they are on the interior of the bus, by and large. We have one camera that’s on the exterior of the bus that’s on the right passenger side pointed backwards. It’s purpose is to kind of watch the ski rack, and to make sure that passengers get their skis and have cleared the vehicle before the vehicle takes off. Sometimes the interior cameras, they have a field of vision that’s almost 360 [degrees] so they take pictures outside the windows of the bus as well. So we’re hopeful that maybe some of those interior cameras will pick up something that’s happening outside. There’s a camera over the driver pointed out the passenger door, may e that camera will have picked up something that was happening on the right side of the bus as the bus was going around the tractor that was in the right lane. However, the vhicle was impounded by the [Colorado] State Patrol because they are going to inspect it. So we can’t access the vehicle to pull the DVR [Digital Video Recorder] from the bus, and we’re wanting to maybe work in cooperation with the State Patrol to get the DVR and then have our facility where it can be view using our software, because from what I understand they don’t have software for all the different kinds of videos that sometimes have information about an accident and what have you. So they indicated that might be something they want to do, but we just haven’t connected yet.”
Reporter: Is RFTA reaching out to the passengers?
Blankenship: “Well, on Saturday night [October 27th] this was a very serious accident and emergency responders came to the scene, their priority was to get people on the ambulances and on their way to the hospital. So we didn’t have a chance to get names and contact information for the passengers that went to the hospital. We got a few names and contact information from some that were less severely injured. Then we tried to get information about the passengers from the hospital because of the HIPA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] regulations they won’t even tell us how many passengers are in the hospital, what their condition is, what have you. So our only avenue really to find out who they are is to ask them to contact us and some have been doing so.
“We’re thankful all of the passengers survived the accident. We know that some of them might have a long and difficult recovery ahead for them, and we, we’re really so sorry for their injuries and we just hope and pray that they will get better as rapidly as possible. And anybody that is out there that is hearing this that is one of those people or knows one of those people, if they would contact us so that we can start to get their information. And if it’s determined that we are liable for this accident, then we’ll be in the position to expedite the claims.”
Reporter: Thanks for talking with us...Dan Blankenship is CEO of the Roaring Fork Transit Authority. A spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol said yesterday it will work with RFTA to get footage and other digital information from the bus. The Patrol also has contact information for many of the eleven injured passengers and may share that with the transit authority. Yesterday Aspen Valley Hospital and Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs did not confirm how many passengers are still in their care.
The National Transportation Safety Board says it is not investigating the RFTA crash. The federal agency looks into plane crashes and other events. A spokesman has said the agency is not probing the Carbondale accident, and likely won’t issue any safety recommendations.