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Driver sent 11 texts in 11 minutes before crash

7:45 PM, Dec 13, 2011   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (KSDK/AP) -- A federal safety official says a 19-year-old pickup truck driver involved in a deadly highway pileup in Missouri last year sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes immediately before the accident.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said Tuesday it's clear the driver Daniel Schatz was manually, cognitively and visually distracted.

Schatz and 15-year-old student Jessica Brinker on one of the school buses were killed. Thirty-eight other people were injured in the Aug. 5, 2010, accident near Gray Summit, Mo.

Investigators said the driver sent six texts and received five texts just before his pickup crashed into the back of a tractor truck, beginning a chain collision.

The last text was transmitted moments before the pickup was rear-ended by a school bus, which in turn was rammed by a second school bus.

"The driver of the pickup truck, the vehicle that set this pileup in motion was using a handheld wireless electronic device," Said NTSB Chair Deborah Hersman. In the 11 minutes before the accident, 11 texts were sent or received. The last text was right before the impact."

The investigation also revealed flaws with Missouri's vehicle inspection policies and mechanical problems with the function of both buses.

The report found significant problems with the brakes on the lead bus in the chain reaction including: A leak in the master cylinder, a leak in the hydraulic brake line from the master cylinder to the ABS unit, an inoperative warning light and cracked brake pads.

The buses were inspected 5 months before the crash by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. According to the report, the MSHP gave the buses a 100% inspection rating, despite the problems.

During the presentation it was stated that the bus showed "reduced breaking ability, and an increased stopping distance."  However, based on the crash analysis, the NTSB ruled out mechanical issues causal or contributory to the crash.

The NTSB is recommending new guidelines for Missouri vehicle inspection and a nationwide ban of the use of cell phones and other electronic devices by all drivers except in emergencies.

The board doesn't have the power to impose regulations, but its recommendations are said to carry significant weight with lawmakers.

Associated Press

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