Federal investigators say fatal bus crash happened during new driver’s first trip

RICHFIELD, Utah — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has started an investigation into a bus rollover crash that killed four tourists from China on Friday.

Pete Kotowski, the NTSB investigator in charge of the investigation, said 10 members of the board arrived in Utah on Saturday and have been working with Utah Highway Patrol and Utah Department of Transportation officials.

“We look at a crash in basically three phases: pre-crash condition, the crash itself and the post-crash condition,” Kotowski said.

The crash happened Friday morning. Utah Highway Patrol said the tour bus, full of Chinese tourists, was heading to Bryce Canyon when the driver veered off the road, over-corrected and then rolled over a guardrail.

The crash killed four and sent the 26 other people on board to the hospital, where at least 12 remain.

NTSB said it is very early in their investigation. Sunday, they began examining the roadway and collision marks, as well as the vehicle's condition.

Investigators are inspecting the bus for crashworthiness on the inside and outside — seating, restraining devices, the roof, windows and other features that may have affected the vehicle.

NTSB will also investigate the company’s hiring practices, the driver’s licensing and medical conditions.

Two NTSP investigators are heading to California to interview the driver and investigate the company.

“We do know that this driver was recently hired and that this was his first trip,” Kotowski said. “That driver has been released and has returned to his home in California.”

The driver’s name has not been released. UHP earlier announced that he was Chinese-American and was driving a bus full of Chinese nationals who did not speak English.

UHP did obtain a blood sample from the driver to determine if impairment was a factor but do not have results yet.

Kotowski said the bus was a 2017 Freightliner with a 37-passenger capacity. It was equipped with seat belts.

The full investigation is estimated to take 12 to 24 months. NTSB will release a preliminary report in the coming weeks.

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