Federal investigators said a metal thermos that fell on the floor of a charter bus probably caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle, sending it crashing through a Queens, New York intersection at a high rate of speed and into another bus. The collision killed three people.
Analyzing surveillance video, vehicle data, and other information collected from the deadly bus crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it couldn’t definitively say whether the dropped thermos jammed the gas and brake pedals, but said evidence supports that conclusion.
On the morning of Sept. 18, 2017, the Dahlia Group Inc. charter bus driven by Raymond Mong experienced sudden unintended acceleration, causing it to go from 30 mph to 60 mph in about 90 seconds before the crash. The bus slammed into the rear of a New York City Transit Authority bus, struck two other vehicles, and ripped the façade off a restaurant, triggering a fire.
The bus crash killed Mr. Mong, pedestrian Henry Wdowiak, and a passenger on the city bus, Gregory Liljefors.
The NTSB said its analyses found Mr. Mong was aware of the danger the bus and its passengers were in before the crash but was unable to control the vehicle’s speed. The brakes were never applied before the collision, and the NTSB found no mechanical malfunctions. Investigators said there was no deliberate attempt to crash the bus.
NTSB investigators then considered the possibility that an object became lodged beneath or between both the brake and the accelerator pedals, resulting in uncontrolled acceleration and the inability to apply the brakes.
At the scene of the crash, investigators found a metal Thermos bottle near the brake and accelerator pedals. The NTSB also said that the thermos could explain a metal rattling noise on the audio recordings from the bus in the moments before the crash. Mr. Mong’s wife told investigators that her husband had taken the thermos with him to work that day.
The NTSB conducted experiments with a similar thermos that found the container could become pinned between the brake and accelerator pedals in such a way that one side could hold the gas pedal down while the other side prevented the brake pedal from being pressed.