2 Dead in School Bus Fire, Vehicle May Have Been Part of Recall

Investigators are trying to determine if the school bus was part of a recall that required electrical system repairs on certain 2005 models.
Published: December 18, 2017

A school bus fire in western Iowa that killed two passengers on Tuesday is under investigation as the vehicle involved may have been subject to a recall.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Pete Kostowski says federal investigators are working to determine if the bus should have undergone electrical system repairs after certain 2005 models were recalled, according to the Des Moines Register.

“That recall involved an issue with the electrical circuitry,” says Kostowski. “Whether that has any involvement in (the fire), that’s an area we are going to continue to examine and make sure that recall actually involves this particular vehicle.”

The bus fire claimed the lives of 74-year-old driver Donald Hendricks and 16-year-old student Megan Klindt. Kostowski says they are also working to determine why the two victims were unable to escape from the bus.

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Officials say Hendricks picked up Klindt at her rural home in Pottawattamie County on Tuesday at approximately 7 a.m. Hendricks backed out of the student’s driveway and into a ditch across the street where the school bus caught fire.

A sheriff’s deputy arrived approximately 15 minutes after a 911 call but was unable to get inside the bus as it was engulfed in flames. Hendricks and Klindt were the only two passengers on the bus and died before the fire was able to be extinguished by volunteer firefighters.

“I don’t remember one (incident) where a school bus caught fire like this one did,” says Des Moines Public Schools chief operating officer Bill Good. “Most will say the safest means for transportation is a school bus.” Good has worked in transportation operations for 35 years.

Ron Humphrey, a special agent in charge of the arson and explosives bureau of the Iowa State Fire Marshal Division, says when a school bus crashes, the fuel line could break and a hot engine or muffler could then ignite fluids in the bus.

As part of the investigation, experts will examine evidence from the bus, bus maintenance records, the driver’s medical records and background and the flammability of the bus, according to National Transportation Safety Board media relations officer Keith Holloway.

Klindt was a sophomore at Riverside Junior/Senior High School. Her family says she and Hendricks, who was a member of the Carson City Council, had a close friendship because she was the first student to be dropped off and the first one to be picked up, according to The Daily Nonpareil.

Denton Hendricks, Donald’s grandson, says his grandfather was a former truck driver and had been driving buses for Riverside for many years. The day of the crash was his last day on the job before he was to undergo back surgery.

Holloway says a preliminary report may take up to a month to publish and a final report could take as long as 18 months.

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