A December 2019 crash involving an SUV and a 14-passenger coach bus in South Carolina resulted in fatalities, but it could have been worse, according to a preliminary report released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The 2015 Chevrolet Equinox sport utility vehicle's airbag control mode indicates that the driver, a 53-year-old woman, was not wearing a seat belt. She was ejected from her vehicle and fatally injured during the crash sequence.

All occupants of the bus wore restraints. However, as a result of the crash, one lap-belted passenger seated behind the driver was partially ejected and fatally injured. The bus driver and the six remaining passengers sustained minor to serious injuries.

The incident in Belton occurred when the SUV entered an approximately 3-degree righthand curve, departed the eastbound travel lane and crossed into the westbound lane, colliding with the front left corner the bus, which the NTSB describes as “medium-sized.” The bus, carrying seven passengers, was operated by the Anderson County Disabilities and Special Needs Board with a 27‑year‑old driver.

The preliminary report states the driver of the SUV had been swerving completely across both lanes from shoulder to shoulder before striking the bus. 

(The photo above, taken Dec. 17, 2019, captures emergency vehicles and first-responders as seen on the Westbound view of the crash scene with the coach bus in its final resting position on a grassy area after colliding with the SUV. Source: Anderson County Coroner’s Office)

“While the investigation continues to determine probable cause, this crash does demonstrate why Strengthen Occupant Protection remains on the NTSB 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. ,” notes the NTSB, in a statement accompanying the report.

The crash remains under investigation and analysis of the crash facts, along with conclusions and a determination of probable cause, will come at a later date when the final report is completed.

The NTSB is conducting its safety investigation alongside the South Carolina Highway Patrol, which is conducting a separate, parallel investigation.

The preliminary report can be found online at http://go.usa.gov/xdbvH.