Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Source: Bus Had No Time to React Driver Didn't See or Hear Train, Official Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Source: Bus Had No Time to React Driver Didn't See or Hear Train, Official Says

Article excerpt

The driver of a school bus struck by a commuter train may have had almost no time to react before the collision that killed seven students, a source close to the investigation said Thursday.

Investigators are trying to determine why the bus carrying 35 students was still waiting at a traffic light with its rear end in the path of the train on Wednesday.

The bus driver, Patricia Catencamp, told investigators that she never saw or heard the train until impact and that she did not hear any warnings from students.

"There was a considerable amount of noise in the bus," John Goglia, a National Transportation Safety Board member, said Thursday night. "She did not hear a (train) horn."

The death toll rose to seven Thursday morning as two female students from Cary-Grove High School - a 15-year-old and an 18-year-old - were taken off life-support systems and pronounced dead at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. Eight others remained hospitalized, one in critical condition.

Investigators tested the traffic light Thursday and were seeking police phone logs to check for complaints about the signal.

The investigators said traffic lights and warning signals had been malfunctioning at the railroad crossing where a train hit the bus.

National Transportation Safety Board inspectors, who spent the night at the crash site, said a switching mechanism should change the intersection's traffic signals so that cars crossing the railroad tracks can clear the tracks before a train arrives. "The timing does not appear to be working," Goglia said.

The board said approaching trains trip sensors embedded in the tracks that prompt warning gates to lower, lights to flash and bells to ring. At the same moment, the traffic signal begins to change, eventually turning green to allow vehicles to pass.

Tests conducted since the crash have showed that 23 to 25 seconds elapsed between the time the train tripped the sensor and then arrived at the crossing, the board said. …

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