The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it would not investigate a deadly Tennessee bus crash because all of the agency’s highway investigators have been furloughed amid the government shutdown. The Oct. 3 crash occurred on Interstate 40 east of Knoxville, Tenn., leaving 8 people dead and injuring more than a dozen others.
Sharon Bryson, deputy director of communications for the NTSB, told NBC News that it was “highly likely” the agency would have investigated the crash under normal circumstances, but stressed that it would be “impossible” to do with all of its investigators furloughed.
Local authorities that responded to the crash said the bus, which was owned and operated by Front Street Baptist Church of Statesville, N.C., swerved across the median into oncoming traffic, colliding with an SUV and a tractor trailer before overturning.
The driver of the SUV, 24-year-old Trent Roberts, and an occupant of the tractor trailer were among the 8 people killed. Some of those who perished could be identified only by dental records after an intense fire consumed much of the wreckage.
Additionally,14 people were hospitalized with crash injuries; nine remain at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville; two of those remain listed in critical condition and seven in serious condition.
The passengers were on their way home to North Carolina after attending a church-sponsored “Young at Heart” conference in Gatlinburg, Tenn., when the crash occurred. Most of the parishioners were 55 or older.
NBC reported that officials from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency requested the NTSB’s assistance in probing the crash, but was told there would be no federal help for lack of staff. NTSB investigators are typically dispatched to the scene immediately after a serious crash and spend up to two weeks onsite. NTSB usually issues an initial report with its findings six months after the conclusion of an investigation, and a final report after 12 months.