The board also stated that the driver at fault had a documented history of drug use.
According to NTSB, synthetic cannabinoids are chemical compounds “marketed as allegedly legal alternatives to marijuana; however, their effects can be considerably worse and they have been known to cause psychosis, seizures, and nonresponsiveness.”
The crash occurred on Sept. 26, 2014, along Interstate 35 North near Davis, Okla. The team was returning to Gainesville, Texas, from a scrimmage in Bethany, Okla., when the truck, after negotiating a slight rightward curve, departed the left lane, crossed the 100-foot-wide median and traveled more than 1,100 feet before colliding with the team’s medium-size bus in the southbound lane.
Four bus passengers died and five were seriously injured. Six additional bus passengers and both drivers sustained minor injuries.
After a nine-month investigation by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, reports the Associated Press, Russell Wayne Staley, 53, of Saginaw, Texas, was charged on June 25 with four counts of first-degree manslaughter in the deaths of 19-year-old Meagan Richardson; 18-year-old Katelynn Woodlee; 20-year-old Jaiden Pelton; and 20-year-old Brooke Deckard.
NTSB pointed out that while federal law prohibits CDL drivers from operating a vehicle while impaired, federal regulations require testing for only a few impairing substances.
The board said this crash investigation highlights the challenges that disconnect presents to both employers and law enforcement. “Motor carriers need to know about this emerging class of drugs, and they need better tools to detect driver impairment,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart.
As a result of the investigation, the NTSB issued two new recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
Regarding on-board recorders, NTSB recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
The board found that none of the bus passenger were buckled in and it said that contributed to the severity of the crash. In addition, the bus driver failed to implement the college’s policy requiring passengers to wear seat belts.
“Had the seat belts been properly worn, they would probably have prevented ejections and reduced overall injuries,” the board stated.