On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, about 2:52 p.m. eastern standard time, a 2001 Thomas Built transit-style school bus, identified as bus #57, was transporting 18 students and an adult teacher’s aide from Sunny View Primary School in Knoxville, Knox County, Tennessee. The bus was traveling westbound in the left lane of Asheville Highway and had just crossed the intersection with John Sevier Highway (East). In the meantime, a 2000 Navistar International transit-style school bus, identified as bus #44, was traveling eastbound in the left lane of Asheville Highway transporting 22 students from Chilhowee Intermediate School. As bus #44 approached the signalized intersection with John Sevier Highway, traffic in front of the bus was stopped at the intersection. The driver of bus #44 swerved left to avoid the stopped traffic and crossed a 30-foot-wide painted median into the westbound lanes of Asheville Highway. The front of bus #44 collided with the left (driver) side of bus #57. (See figure 1 for crash location.)
Figure 1. Crash location on westbound Asheville Highway, west of intersection with John Sevier Highway.
Following the initial impact, bus #57 rotated counter-clockwise (about 90 degrees); the vehicle partially departed the roadway, slid onto the shoulder, and collided with a barricade made of five steel poles embedded in a concrete curb, before overturning onto its right side. Bus #57 came to rest on the right shoulder of Asheville Highway, partially blocking its westbound travel lanes. Bus #44 came to rest facing north across the westbound lanes.
As a result of the crash, the adult teacher’s aide, who was reportedly seated on the left side near the rear axle of bus #57, died. Additionally, two student passengers seated near the impact zone on the left side of bus #57 received fatal injuries. Occupants of both vehicles received injuries of varying degrees.
At the time of the crash, there was intermittent precipitation in the area, and road conditions ranged from dry to wet, depending on the specific location.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) initiated a field investigation of this crash with an emphasis on the human performance issues related to distracted vehicle operation. Highway and vehicle factors were also examined. This investigation was conducted with the assistance of the Knoxville Police Department (KPD).