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NTSB Asks For Medical Records Of Semi Driver In Deadly Softball Bus Crash

Oklahoma investigators have not concluded whether a truck driver's inattention caused a highway collision that killed four members of a Texas college softball team.

Monday the Oklahoma Highway Patrol again declined to say what may have distracted 53-year-old Russell Staley from Saginaw, Tex. at the time of the crash Friday night.

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said the agency has obtained and delivered subpoenas for Staley's medical records.

“We do this in all accidents,” Sumwalt said. “It may have happened because of vehicle factors, so we’re looking at the vehicle. It could have happened because of driver factors, so we want to look at the driver factors to see if there was any impairment whatsoever or to see if there were any reasons why the driver may have not made that turn. And finally, environmental factors like glare or rain. We know it was not raining, but those are the three categories we want to look at.”

Staley was driving northbound on Interstate 35 when his 18-wheel tractor-trailer veered into the southbound lanes and crashed into a bus carrying 15 softball players from North Central Texas College in Gainesville just over the Oklahoma-Texas border. Federal investigators said Sunday the truck continued straight for another 300 feet.

Reporters asked Sumwalt about cable barriers along Interstate 35 during Monday’s news conference, and he said the issue remains under investigation.

The Oklahoman’s Andrew Knittle reports Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokeswoman Brenda Perry says the most recent construction plan doesn’t call for the device along I-35 north of Ardmore.

“We do have rumble strips that are in the inside and outside lanes, in both directions,” Perry said. “But, with the way we evaluate where to put the cable barriers, that location didn’t meet the criteria.” Perry said the Transportation Department looks at a variety of factors before spending millions of dollars to install cable barriers, including the slope and width of the median, average daily traffic load and accident history. “It does change the data we look at as far as criteria goes,” she said. “It’s updated, our construction plan, once a year ...but we just updated it (earlier in) September.”

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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