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THP Officials Blame Tire Damage for Tragic I-40 Bus Accident

Back in October, Tennessee was rocked by a tragic bus accident that left eight people dead, making it the single deadliest crash in the state since 1990, when 12 people lost their lives in a horrific pile-up caused by dense fog on Interstate 75.

To recap, a church bus carrying senior citizens home to North Carolina after a gospel festival blew its front tire on Interstate 40 outside of Knoxville, sending it careening across the median and through a cable-rail system into oncoming traffic.

This set off a fiery chain-reaction accident involving the bus, a sport utility vehicle and a semi truck. Sadly, the semi-truck driver, one of the passengers in the SUV and six passengers on the bus were killed.

In recent developments, the Tennessee Highway Patrol announced the results of a forensic examination undertaken by its laboratory in Nashville on the remains of the blown tire and wheel assembly of the bus.

According to THP officials, the tire failure that resulted in the fatal bus crash was more than likely caused by the tire coming into contact with some sort of road debris or other type of road hazard (curb, pothole, etc.) in the 50 miles leading up to the crash scene — perhaps from the ongoing road construction in the Gatlinburg area.

Specifically, the THP lab report found that the tire showed evidence of internal belt damage consistent with striking some type of road hazard.

Any type of broken belts inside the tire, they concluded, would have permitted air to seep into the space between the belts and the tire tread. This, in turn, would have caused the air to heat up and expand due to road friction, eventually resulting in the complete blowout of the tire.

It is worth noting that the lab report also noted that the tire manufactured by South Korea-based Hankook was in otherwise excellent condition and that the interior belt damage wouldn’t have been visible from the outside of the tire.

In light of these conclusions and the fact that neither driver impairment nor speeding played a role, the THP indicated that the bus crash has been classified as accidental and that no criminal charges will be filed.

It will certainly be interesting to see what transpires from a legal perspective in the wake of this announcement. Specifically, whether product liability lawsuits are filed by victims against the tire manufacturer or the state for creating unsafe road conditions.

Stay tuned for further updates …

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash or bus accident, remember to consider speaking with a dedicated legal professional to learn more about your rights and options.

Source: The Charlotte Observer, “Tire in fatal bus crash failed from earlier impact, troopers say,” Mark Washburn, April 28, 2014; USA Today, “IDs of bus crash victims hampered by ‘horrific’ scene,” Doug Stanglin and Meghan Hoyer, October 3, 2013