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DAY AFTER: Photos released of those killed, injured in prison bus/train crash - Odessa American: Traffic & Transportation

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PENWELL BUS/TRAIN CRASH DAY AFTER: Photos released of those killed, injured in prison bus/train crash

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FM 866 and Penwell Odessa TX

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015 9:30 am

UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.: The NTSB will focus on safety

The Texas Department of Public safety remains the lead investigative agency into the prisoner transport bus crash near Penwell that killed 10 prisoners. And the DPS has listed “icy road conditions” as the “primary factor.”

But a number of agencies will conduct other investigations, including the National Transportation Safety Board, which focuses on what, if anything, could be done to prevent similar tragedies.

NTSB investigator in charge Pete Kotowski said the agency would examine a number of factors: environmental, human and mechanical. Their investigation will include icy conditions, but also look at driver behavior and whether the bus adequately protected the passengers — in this case, prisoners handcuffed in pairs who rode in cages without seatbelts.

“There’s more to just thinking about putting in a seatbelt in a vehicle that is going to make a vehicle safe,” Kotowski said. “. . . You want to make sure that if a person is restrained in a vehicle that they also have adequate protective space around them to survive the collision as well.”

The NTSB began investigating Thursday morning and had not spoken with the DPS trooper who reportedly witnessed the bus crash, Kotowski said.

“We know that there was actually an officer on scene who was conducting an investigation when the crash occurred, and that is an area that we are continuing to work on,” Kotowski said.

NTSB officials expect to release a preliminary report in about 10 days that will outline facts relating to the crash. A final investigative report with recommendations could take more than a year.

Update, 2 p.m.: DPS reports other wrecks did not contribute to bus crash as several preceded, followed bus crash into train on icy highway

Trooper Adrian Olivas was investigating the wreck of a brown pickup truck on the other side of Interstate 20 when the prisoner transport bus lost control on the icy road, barreling down an embankment and into a moving freight train, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The DPS reported five wrecks before and after the bus crash, which killed 10 people. But investigators said none were directly related to the cause of the bus crash.

The “primary factor in these crashes and the bus crash are due to the icy road conditions,” wrote Sgt. Elizabeth Barney, an agency spokeswoman, in a statement.

The wreck Olivas was working happened at about 7:35 a.m. as the pickup traveled east on the highway, or about five minutes before the DPS now reports the prisoner transport bus veered off the embankment.

 A median separates the eastbound and westbound lanes, and Barney said the pickup never left the roadway. She said it was unclear how far away Olivas was from the wreck, but it was in the same area near Mile Marker 103 where the bus crashed.

Olivas was not made available for comment and was reportedly working with a specialized DPS crash reconstruction team.

No injuries were reported in the other wrecks.

At least two wrecks had already happened in the area before the brown pickup crashed, according to a timeline provided by the DPS. The first was about 5:50 a.m., when a the driver of a white pickup truck traveling east lost control on the north side of the overpass.

Next, at about 6:05 a.m., the driver of a blue passenger car lost control traveling east, coming to rest in the center median.

Moments after the prisoner transport bus hit the freight train at about 7:40 a.m., the driver of a gray passenger car lost control on the ice of the overpass and struck a guard rail. A gray pickup truck following behind the car also lost control on the ice and hit the guardrail.

Finally, about 10 minutes later, another white pickup truck headed west on the overpass crashed and rolled, damaging a guard rail. This rollover wreck was visible from the scene of the bus crash as emergency personnel removed victims from the site.

Barney said rubbernecking might have contributed to some of the wrecks following the prisoner transport bus crash.

“That did happen, unfortunately,” Barney said. “But the main thing on both sides of the roadway was ice.”

Update, 12: p.m.: It remains unclear who was driving bus

The Texas Criminal Justice Department will review the prisoner transport bus crash into a train that killed 10 people, including examinations of driver behavior, vehicle safety and maintenance, according to TDCJ spokesman Jason Clark.

The TDCJ remained unsure Thursday which of the correctional officers who died was driving the bus, a new Bluebird bus able to carry 44 prisoners and three officers.

The reason, Clark said, is that correctional officers sometimes share driving duties. The bus was en route from a transfer unit in the Abilene area to El Paso.

“I believe in this case the drivers might have switched halfway,” Clark said. He declined identify who was driving when the bus departed.

The correctional officers who died were 53-year-old Christopher Davis and 45-year-old Eligio Garcia. They were from Abilene, along with the third officer on the bus who survives them: 38-year-old Jason Self, listed in critical condition Thursday at University Medical Center in Lubbock.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has so-far declined to comment on the position of the victims in the bus. The TDCJ believes Self was riding in the back of the bus, Clark said.

Eight prisoners died in the wreck. They had been handcuffed in pairs, riding in cages during the minimum-security transport.

Update 10:05 a.m.: The conditions of the five survivors of the prisoner transport bus crash remained unchanged a day after the wreck. But one of the prisoners was incorrectly reported by officials as facing less severe injuries.

Medical Center Hospital and the Texas Department of Criminal initially reported 37-year-old prisoner Hector Rivera as listed in serious condition. But that was incorrect, said TDCJ Jason Clark on Thursday.

Rivera was listed in critical condition by doctors the entire time of his hospital stay.

The only victim who has been upgraded to serious condition is 34-year-old Remigio Pineda, whose family said the wait to hear whether he survived was “torture.” Two other surviving offenders, 22-year-old Damien Rodriguez and 22-year-old Terry Johnson, remained listed in critical condition at MCH on Thursday.

The surviving correctional officer, 38-year-old Jason Self, remained Thursday in critical condition at University Medical Center in Lubbock.

Ten died in the wreck:

>> The correctional officers killed were 53-year-old Christopher Davis and 45-year-old Eligio Garcia.

>> The prisoners who died were 34-year-old Byron Wilson, 29-year-old Tyler Townsend, 44-year-old Jesus Reyna, 22-year-old Kaleb Wise, 32-year-old Adolfo Ruiz, 25-year-old Michael Stewart, 31-year-old Angel Vasquez and 35-year-old Jeremiah Rodriguez.

TDCJ will be sending further updates as more information becomes available.

Update 9:45 a.m. A Union Pacific police employee at the scene of the deadly bus/train crash said remaining packages that spilled from UPS train freight cars on Wednesday are being loaded by contractors and taken to the landfill.

National Transportation Safety Board officials and Department of Public Safety officers will have a walk through and crash assessment at the accident site later today.

The two damaged freight cars remain at the scene of the crash near Penwell that killed 10 people.

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