What we know about the Indiana bus stop crash the children and the driver

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR NEWS)

 

What we know about the Indiana bus stop crash, the children and the driver

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Twin boys and their big sister died Tuesday when the driver of a pickup truck allegedly blew past their stopped school bus on a rural highway in northern Indiana.

Xzavier and Mason Ingle, both 6, and Alivia Stahl, 9, were struck while crossing the road to get on their bus. They died at the scene of the crash near 4600 North Ind. 25, north Rochester in Fulton County.

A fourth child, 11-year-old Maverik Lowe, was airlifted to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne with life-threatening injuries.

Alyssa Shepherd, 24, of Rochester, was arrested and charged Tuesday with reckless homicide and other crimes, records show.

Bus stop crash: NTSB is investigating crash that killed 3 kids boarding school bus
School bus safety: Here’s when you should stop

Here’s what we know about this tragedy:

Who are the children

Twin brothers Xzavier and Mason, their sister Alivia Stahl and Maverik Lowe were students in the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation. Xzavier, Mason and Alivia attended Mentone Elementary School.

Maverik is a student at Tippecanoe Valley Middle School, police said. He was critically injured with multiple broken bones and underwent surgery Tuesday at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne.

Maverik suffered back injuries, broken legs, arms and a knee cap and “may never walk again,” his relative Jocelynne Lowe posted on a GoFundMe page.

“He is a very, very strong kid,” Lowe wrote. “Please pray for this family.”

Maverik’s parents issued a statement through the Indiana State Police on Wednesday, in which they thanked the community for their prayers and requested privacy.

Sgt. Tony Slocum@ISPPeru

From parents of Maverik Lowe :“We would like to thank those who have prayed for our family/ families of those involved in yesterday’s tragedy. He is currently in stable condition. Our family is focused on his recovery at this time and requests privacy as we heal together.”

What happened at the bus stop

The children left their neighborhood to board their school bus about 7:15 a.m. when they were struck by the southbound Toyota pickup, Indiana State Police Sgt. Tony Slocum said.

The children were crossing the rural two-lane highway to catch their bus, which was stopped in the northbound lane with its lights flashing and “STOP” arm extended.

Police did not say how fast the pickup was traveling. The speed limit on that stretch of Ind. 25 is 55 mph.

Who is the pickup driver

Alyssa Shepherd works as children’s director at Faith Outreach, a Foursquare Gospel Church in Rochester. The Rev. Terry Baldwin, the church’s senior pastor, declined to answer specific questions Wednesday.

“Our hearts are broken for the families who have suffered such a tremendous loss,” Baldwin told IndyStar during a phone call. “We are fervently praying for everyone touched by this. We want you and your readers to pray with us.

“Also, please remember our community.”

What is the driver charged with

Shepherd was charged Tuesday with three counts of reckless homicide and a misdemeanor count of passing a school bus when an signal arm is extended, court records show.

She was booked into the Fulton County Jail and released after posting $15,000 bond, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.

Shepherd remained at the scene after the crash and cooperated with investigators. She was given a blood test as is standard in all fatal crashes, but police said they do not think alcohol or drugs were a factor.

The investigation

Ind. 25 was shut down for hours Tuesday as Indiana State Police accident investigators measured the impact sites, skid marks and collected evidence needed to reconstruct the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to Rochester on Wednesday to conduct its own investigation.

A state mourns

Gov. Eric Holcomb was among many who offered condolences Tuesday.

“Words cannot express the depth of sorrow Janet and I feel, which only pales in comparison to what family, friends, teachers, classmates and community are feeling right now,” Holcomb said in a statement.

“Today, and for many more to come, we mourn their loss. I ask Hoosiers around the state to join us by sending your deepest prayers for the strength needed to endure such a time.”

The Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation in a statement Tuesday asked the community for prayers for families, students and staff.

“We have deployed all school counselors to meet the emotional needs of our staff, students and parents,” the statement said.

How to help

GoFundMe pages have been set up to help the families. The page benefiting the family of Xzavier, Mason, and Alivia raised more than $46,000 by mid-day Wednesday.

The campaign benefiting Maverik’s family raised more than $15,000 by about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Call IndyStar reporter Vic Ryckaert at 317-444-2701. Follow him on Twitter: @VicRyc.

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Amtrak train derailed on track that had automatic-braking technology — but it wasn’t switched on

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF USA TODAY)

 

Amtrak train derailed on track that had automatic-braking technology — but it wasn’t switched on

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The fatal Amtrak crash south of Seattle occurred on track where equipment for automatic braking, which Congress has required on all railroads by the end of 2018, was installed but was still being tested.

Train 501 was going 80 mph Monday in a curve posted for 30 mph when several cars derailed and dangled off a bridge above Interstate 5, according to Bella Dinh-Zarr, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board that is investigating.

At least three people died and dozens were injured when 13 train cars jumped the tracks during the train’s inaugural run along a new bypass route. The train carried 85 passengers and crew members.

 The board will spend months determining what role speed and any other factors played in the accident before making recommendations about how to avoid future accidents.

Congress set the deadline for railroads to install automatic braking after a collision in Chatsworth, Calif., in 2008 between a commuter train and a freight train killed 25 people. Safety advocates contend the technology could have prevented the accident.

The technology collectively known as “Positive Train Control” provides signals between tracks, trains and dispatch centers to slow down speeding trains or to stop them at the appropriate signals if the engineer isn’t responding. Railroads are installing the technology piecemeal across the country at a cost of billions of dollars.

“The Positive Train Control equipment has been installed and is now still in testing, which is why the system has not been activated,” Jason Abrams, an Amtrak spokesman, said of the track owned by a Seattle-area transit company where the accident occurred.

Sound Transit owns the tracks south from Tacoma to Dupont, where the accident occurred, providing its own transit service as far south as Lakewood, according to spokesman Geoff Patrick.

But the state Department of Transportation upgraded the tracks with federal funding so Amtrak could travel farther south along the tracks, while avoiding freight tracks that run along the shore of Puget Sound.

“We own the tracks, but we do not operate on them,” Patrick said of the accident location.

Sound Transit has installed Positive Train Control equipment along the railroad right-of-way, which will communicate with trains and network control centers, Patrick said. But the system hasn’t yet been linked together or certified as operational, he said.

“We are well ahead of the December 2018 deadline and on schedule for implementing in the second quarter of 2018,” Patrick said. “We’re pleased to be well ahead of the deadline.”

More:

Amtrak: Modern braking system coming to N.E. Corridor by year’s end

NTSB: Amtrak’s systemic safety lapses, lack of equipment caused fatal train crash in Pa.

Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said Amtrak is behind the new technology. “As far as Positive Train Control goes, we are huge supporters of Positive Train Control at Amtrak,” Anderson said.

Keith Millhouse, rail-safety consultant and a former board chairman of Metrolink at the time of the Chatsworth collision, has advocated for Positive Train Control because rail accidents often result from human errors such as distraction that could be avoided with automatic braking.

“The big tragedy here is that if indeed it was over-speed, positive train control would have prevented this accident,” Millhouse said.

He said the accident was “eerily similar” to the fatal Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia in May 2015, which killed eight people and injured hundreds.

The NTSB ruled that the engineer lost awareness of where he was on his route and headed into a 50-mph curve at more than 100 mph. Positive Train Control hadn’t been installed on that part of track by the time of the accident, but Amtrak completed it along its portion of the Northeast Corridor in December 2015.

Benedict Morelli, a New York lawyer who represented passengers in the crash, said Congress should have hastened the requirement for railroads to adopt the technology before the latest accident.

“I worry when I get on an airplane. Before I represented these people, I didn’t get on an Amtrak train and think, ‘God, I hope I don’t derail,’” Morelli said. “Now it’s happening and happening and happening.  It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Even when completed, the system is not foolproof.

An Amtrak train struck a backhoe at 99 mph outside Philadelphia in April 2016, killing two people and injuring 36 — despite automatic braking being installed along the track.

In a safety lapse between work shifts, the board found a night foreman lifted a closure on the track, which the day foreman didn’t resume, even though the backhoe remained on the track.

Anderson refused to speculate about what caused Monday’s crash. But he said Amtrak listens to NTSB  guidance and is making investments based on recommendations from previous accidents.

“We take those very seriously and continue to make the investments recommended by the NTSB,” Anderson said. “Safety is the highest priority of the Amtrak board.”

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MH-370 Debris Found Off Tanzania: But Still Not The Plane Or The People

(This article is courtesy of the Shanghai Daily News)

Debris off Tanzania from MH370 but plane’s fate still a mystery

A piece of aircraft wreckage found in June off Tanzania has been confirmed as coming from doomed MH370 flight, Malaysia said yesterday.

The debris, found on Pemba Island off the Tanzanian coast, is the latest piece of wreckage to be linked to the Malaysia Airlines jet, whose disappearance remains a mystery.

Malaysia’s transport ministry said the piece of debris, which had been taken to Australia for expert analysis, was found to have part numbers, date stamps and other identifiers confirming it came from the Malaysia Airlines jet.

“As such, the experts have concluded that the debris, an outboard flap, originated from the aircraft 9M-MRO, also known as MH370,” a ministry statement said.

“Further examination of the debris will continue in hopes that evidence may be uncovered which may provide new insight into the circumstances surrounding flight MH370.”

Authorities had earlier said the piece of debris was “highly likely” to have come from MH370. However, the confirmation appears to have so far shed no fresh light on the plane’s fate.

The Malaysia Airlines jet was carrying 239 passengers and crew when it disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. It is believed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean, but an extensive hunt off Australia’s west coast is drawing to a close with nothing yet found.

However, several pieces of debris that apparently drifted thousands of kilometers toward the African coast have been identified as definitely or probably from the Boeing 777.

Those finds have confirmed the plane went down but have so far shed no light on why and have fuelled questions over whether the official search is focused in the right area.

The Australian-led operation is scouring the seafloor within a remote 120,000-square-kilometer belt of the Indian Ocean where authorities believe the passenger jet went down.

The search is nearly finished, however, and families are bracing for it to be called off.

An American amateur investigator, Blaine Gibson, handed other possible MH370 debris to Australian officials on Monday, saying several pieces were blackened by flames, raising the prospect of a flash fire onboard.

Gibson, a lawyer who has traveled the world trying to solve the MH370 mystery, told Australian reporters the debris had washed up in Madagascar.

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