ROCHESTER — A federal report into the October 2018 crash that killed three students as they attempted to board a school bus in rural Fulton county said the school district had conducted an "inadequate safety assessment of school bus routes."
The report, released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board, said the inadequate safety assessment by the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation resulted in the "prevalence of bus stops that required students to cross high-speed roadways to board a bus. The report also cited that the district had no clear policy established for school bus drivers to follow in determining when it was safe to signal students to cross a roadway to board a bus.
The primary cause of the crash was the driver of a pickup truck's failure to stop for the school bus despite the bus's activated and visible warning lights and stop arm, as well as a roadway warning sign for an upcoming school bus stop.
The driver of the pickup, Alyssa Shepherd, was ordered to serve four years in prison after she was convicted on three counts of reckless homicide, passing a school bus causing injury and criminal recklessness resulting in serious injury.
Three siblings — Alivia Stahl, 9, and her twin brothers, Mason and Xzavier Ingle, 6 — were struck and killed by Shepherd's pickup truck. A fourth child, Maverick Lowe, 11, was struck and seriously injured.
The NTSB report notes that Shepherd did not respond to the activated warning lights and stop arm or attempt to stop the vehicle until the children were in the roadway "for reasons that cannot be determined from the available evidence."
"When our school-aged children walk out the door to meet the school bus in the morning, parents have the right to know that everything possible is being done for their safety," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said. "This crash tells us that we can and should do more. While the school bus is still the safest way for students to travel to and from school, it is imperative that other drivers on the roads obey the law and stop for a school bus that is loading or unloading students."
Blaine Conley, superintendent of Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, issued the following statement:
This has been a very difficult process for our school family and community as we have coped with the devastating loss of three elementary students and a critically injured middle school student. Our thoughts continue to be with everyone involved.
TVSC has implemented a transportation safety review committee who meets regularly. This committee includes Fulton County Sheriff Christopher Sailors, Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes along with other committee members which include school transportation officials, highway officials, bus drivers and representation of the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation Board of School Trustees.