Dropped Thermos Suspected in Deadly New York Bus Crash in 2017

(Bloomberg) -- A dropped thermos wedged between the brake and accelerator pedals of a charter bus may have been behind a 2017 crash in Flushing, New York, that killed three people, U.S. transportation investigators said Thursday.

The motorcoach ran a red light at roughly 60 miles per hour and crashed into a New York City Transit Authority bus in September 2017, killing the coach’s driver, a passenger on the city bus and a pedestrian, according to a final report on the accident released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Investigators found a metal thermos near the the motorcoach’s brake and accelerator pedals at the scene of the crash, according to the report. It said that a sound of metal rattling could be heard shortly before the accident on a video and sound recorder installed on the bus that was recovered after the accident.

Three seconds after the sound began, the driver said “Oh [expletive]” and the bus accelerated at maximum throttle, the NTSB said. Data taken from the bus showed the brakes were not applied, the agency said.

While the rattling combined with the discovery of the thermos in the wreckage were tantalizing clues, NTSB was unable to prove that’s what caused the sudden acceleration and lack of braking. Tests trying to recreate the noise were inconclusive, the safety board said.

“The NTSB concluded that though an obstructed brake pedal could not be discounted as a factor in the crash, it also could not be determined as causal to the crash,” according to the report.

The report concluded the crash’s probable cause was the motorcoach driver’s unintended acceleration and inability to brake “for reasons that could not be conclusively determined from the information available.”

The driver was “conscious and aware of the hazardous conditions preceding the crash but was unable to control the vehicle’s speed,” the report said, noting that no evidence that the driver’s training, experience, familiarity with the roads or actions prior to the crash were factors in the collision.

Investigators also found the motorcoach driver was not distracted by his mobile phone.

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