Bluffton bus crash in­spires bill to up­grade bus safety

Sen­a­tors are propos­ing seat belts on char­ter buses

The Covington News - - SPORTS -

By John Seewer

TOLEDO, Ohio — In the hours af­ter his son and four other Bluffton Univer­sity base­ball play­ers died in a bus crash, John Betts made a prom­ise to team mem­bers who sur­vived.

He told them some­thing good would come out of the ac­ci­dent. Since then, Betts has pushed for im­proved safety on long-haul buses

Now, two U.S. sen­a­tors have pro­posed re­quir­ing seat belts on char­ter buses and pas­sen­ger buses that travel from state to state.

The leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced Thurs­day also would re­quire changes de­signed to pre­vent pas­sen­gers from be­ing thrown out win­dows and in­crease train­ing for driv­ers. The pro­posal doesn’t ap­ply to city buses or school buses.

“There’s no ques­tion this will save lives,” Betts said.

David Betts, a sopho­more sec­ond base­man, was among the five play­ers killed when the char­ter bus they rode in top­pled off an over­pass in At­lanta nearly eight months ago. The bus driver and his wife also died.

Two of the play­ers killed and some who were in­jured were thrown out of the bus and pinned un­der­neath it. Only seats in the first few rows had seat belts.

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board for years has rec­om­mended im­proved re­straint sys­tems, in­clud­ing seat belts, that many ex­perts say could pre­vent pas­sen­gers from be­ing tossed around and ejected.

Sens. Sher­rod Brown, DOhio, and Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son, R-Texas, also want stronger bus roofs that will hold up in rollover ac­ci­dents and more pro­tec­tion against fire.

A bus in Texas car­ry­ing el­derly peo­ple flee­ing Hur­ri­cane Rita in 2005 caught fire be­cause of an un­lu­bri­cated wheel axle, killing 23 pas­sen­gers.

Bus in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives say more test­ing is needed to de­ter­mine what would make the ve­hi­cles safer.

“If there’s a bet­ter way to pro­tect peo­ple on mo­tor coaches, we’re all for it,” said Vic­tor Parra, pres­i­dent of the United Mo­tor­coach As­so­ci­a­tion. “Let’s look at the best way to do it.”

Bus win­dows have been de­signed so that they open eas­ily dur­ing an ac­ci­dent or fire to al­low pas­sen­gers to es­cape, he said. And there’s no guar­an­tee that those on­board will wear seat belts, Parra added.

Most of the play­ers on the Bluffton bus were asleep and stretched out across their seats or in the aisle when bus crashed. “Ob­vi­ously, seat belts wouldn’t have helped them,” Parra said.

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