Study finds bus going faster than originally reported

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Federal investigators released their findings Tuesday about a fatal bus accident in South Eastern Utah last year. They say driver error was the main cause of the crash.

Their reports indicate he was going 90 miles per hour, much faster than the Utah Highway Patrol originally reported.

UHP concluded last year the driver was only going 68 mph when he crashed. That's about 20 miles per hour slower than what federal investigators released Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board also said the driver was fatigued, and that was the likely cause for speeding.

Welland Lotan, 71, apparently suffered from sleep apnea and was on non-drowsy cold medicine at the time.

UHP says video inside the bus shows he was awake.

San Juan County troopers used a time distance formula to figure out the bus' speed. They even went to NTSB in Nebraska to evaluate the video.

Troopers say they used a time distance formula to conclude Welland was driving about 68 miles per hour, slightly over the speed limit

Now, troopers are puzzled by these new findings. Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Cameron Roden said, "I talked with the officers that conducted their investigation, and they're really confident with the speeds they were able to find."

He added, "There's a lot of different formulas people use in order to get speeds of vehicles. What formula NTSB used, I'm not aware of that."

UHP hasn't discussed the new findings with NTSB. The state agency says it's willing to open a dialogue with federal agents to see how they came up with that number.

NTSB made eight recommendations to federal and state government agencies. It's harshest criticism went to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration It's an agency that's ignored NTSB's pleas for 10 years to have safer standards for charter bus roofs. The roof in this accident was sheared off, and all but two people were ejected.

The crash happened in January 6, 2008, killing nine people and injuring 43 others.

The charter bus was on its way back to Arizona after a ski trip to Colorado. The driver pleaded guilty to a lane violation last year.

The Utah Highway Patrol says once it has spoken with the NTSB and to the San Juan County attorney, it will determine if additional charges are necessary for the driver.


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Nicole Gonzales


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