NTSB Preliminary Report Shows Guardrail Causes Deadly Penwell Prison Bus Crash

NTSB Preliminary Report Shows Guardrail Causes Deadly Penwell Prison Bus Crash

By Iline Tang


PENWELL - "I told everybody at work, I know they had to hit that guardrail cause it was sticking out in the road cause I almost hit it," Odessa resident, Brian Tarpley, said. "To me, like I said, I didn't feel no ice."

A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed that icy road conditions is not the cause of the deadly Penwell prison bus crash. Turns out, it was a guardrail sticking out about two feet in the left lane of Interstate 20. Something Tarpley had to avoid while driving to Crane for work.

"Looking in my rear view mirror, I could see another 18-wheeler behind me and I thought he was going to hit it, but he apparently swerved too to miss it," Tarpley, said.

According to the report, the guardrail was damaged just a day before the bus crash from another accident. The bus accident happened at 7:50 a.m. There were three other wrecks in the same area. The last one taking place at 7:35 a.m. In two of those wrecks, officials say the car lost control, went across the median and slammed into the guardrail, possibly pushing it into the interstate.

"It was still connected. It was bent out in the road. It wasn't like broke off and laying in the road, it was actually curved into the road," Tarpley, said.

Tarpley says as he was getting on the interstate, he saw a highway patrol man and a wrecker, but no warning near the guardrail.

"Did officials have any cones or anything around the guardrail at all?" NewsWest 9 reporter, Iline Tang, said.

"No. No, like I said, there was just an accident right there and there was a wrecker out there to get the car and everything like that," Tarpley, said.

The bus which was carrying 12 inmates and three correctional officers hit the guardrail. It then went into the median and traveled nearly two dozen feet before coming up on an embankment. That's when the bus went airborne crashing into a Union Pacific train killing eight inmates and two officers and injuring five others.

The investigation is expected to take 12 to 16 months to complete.