Report: Sign advised lower speed in snowy turnpike bus crash

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Light snow was falling during a bus crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that killed five people last month, and the bus had just passed a sign warning to keep below 55 mph (89 kph) on a curve, according to a preliminary investigative report released Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board's three-page report said all aspects of the crash remain under investigation.

The report did not say how fast the bus was traveling when the driver lost control near Mount Pleasant, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Pittsburgh. The posted speed limit on that stretch is 70 mph (113 kph), but there is an advisory sign before the crash site with the lower speed limit, the report said.

Spokespeople for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and state police said their agencies are working together and with the NTSB on the crash investigation. They offered no further comment or details.

The bus, operated by Z&D Tour Inc., had been traveling from Rockaway, New Jersey, to Cincinnati when the crash occurred around 3:30 a.m. Jan. 5 in a rural, mountainous area of the turnpike, which is also Interstates 70 and 76 on that stretch.

The driver, identified in the report only as a 58-year-old man, was killed in the crash, along with two bus passengers. The others killed were two UPS drivers, Daniel Kepner, 53, and Dennis Kehler, 48, who were working out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a company spokeswoman has said.

Nearly all of the 61 passengers in the Z&D Tour motorcoach were injured, the report said, and the bus was designed for 57 passengers.

The westbound bus veered toward the median, went back to the right across all travel lanes, hit a steep embankment, rolled onto the passenger side, and stopped in the road with its underside facing oncoming traffic, the report said. The road had been treated with salt.

The bus was then struck by a FedEx tractor-trailer occupied by a driver and co-driver, who were slightly injured. The UPS truck that contained Kepner and Kehler then struck the FedEx truck. A passenger car and a third truck were also then involved in the pile-up, but those occupants were uninjured, the report said.

The NTSB said it is looking into the commercial drivers' records, the snow and ice removal process, and the “safety culture” of Z&D Tour.

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