What we know about fiery I-70 crash in Licking County that killed 6, injured 18

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A fiery, five-vehicle crash led to a “mass casualty” incident Tuesday morning on Interstate 70 westbound in Licking County near the Route 310 interchange in Etna.

Here’s what we know:

How many were killed and hurt?

Three students aboard a chartered bus and three chaperones in an accompanying passenger vehicle died in the crash, and 18 suffered injuries, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

On Tuesday evening, the patrol identified the dead as:

  1. John W. Mosely, 18, of Mineral City
  2. Jeffery D. Worrell, 18, of Bolivar
  3. Katelyn N. Owens, 15 of Mineral City
  4. Dave Kennat, 56, of Nevarre
  5. Kristy Gaynor, 39, of Zoar
  6. Shannon Wigfield, 45, Bolivar

Mosely, Worrell, and Owens were passengers onf the bus that was struck and Kennat, Gaynor and Wigfield were chaperones in a separate vehicle that was involved in the accident.

Photos:Charter bus crash closes I-70 near Ohio 310 in Licking County

Emergency responders took victims to at least five local hospitals: Licking Memorial Hospital, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, OhioHealth Grant Medical Center, OhioHealth Pickerington Methodist Hospital and Mount Carmel East Hospital.

Five patients were treated at OhioHealth hospitals, a spokesperson confirmed.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Nate Dennis said the crash involved five vehicles and 18 people were transported from the bus.

Who was on the bus?

There were a total of 54 people on the charter bus at the time of the crash. Three of the passengers who were on the bus were pronounced deceased at the scene.

Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools, an Ohio school district in Zoarville, said late Tuesday morning that the bus was carrying students and chaperones on their way to the last day of the Ohio School Boards Association conference in Columbus. Some of the students on the bus were band members who were going to perform at the OSBA conference, which canceled the final day of the conference after learning of the crash.

More:Tusky Valley community reacts to fatal Columbus bus crash

Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools, known commonly as Tusky Valley, is a school of nearly 1,250 students across all districts, and their mascot is a trojan.

School will be in session Wednesday, the district announced, but the superintendent said it “will not be a normal day.” A prayer vigil was held Tuesday night at the high school football stadium for the six killed.

Where did it happen?

The crash happened on I-70 west about a half-mile before the Route 310 interchange in Etna.

What caused the bus crash?

What caused the Tuesday morning crash is not immediately apparent.

The Highway Patrol said the crash occurred at 8:52 a.m. and by shortly after 9 a.m. dozens of first responders from across Licking County and eastern Franklin County responded to the area. From visual images at the scene, it appeared a tractor-trailer hit a charter bus from behind and burst into flames. The patrol said those two vehicles and a third among the five vehicles involved caught fire.

Ohio Department of Transportation cameras from the area showed smoke coming from the crash site.

Both sides of I-70 were closed while emergency responders dealt with the aftemath. By Tuesday afternoon I-70 eastbound was reopened.

What kind of bus was it?

The bus involved in the crash was a commercial charter from Pioneer Trails, a family-owned bus business based in Millersburg in Holmes County.

In a statement on Facebook, Pioneer Trails “is fully cooperating with the authorities as we work to find the cause of the accident” and sends prayers to the victims and their families.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation inspections, the company has had one other crash involving an injury in the last 24 months. The company received a satisfactory rating, meaning records indicate no evidence of substantial non-compliance with safety requirements.

Are motorcoach buses safe?

Motor coach travel is one of the safest forms of transportation in the U.S., according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

On average, four motorcoach passengers die in bus crashes each year, 1999 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows.

In 2020, 4,998 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, marking a 5% decline from 2019, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Of those crashes, 156 involved a bus, data shows.

Was this a mass casualty event?

Dispatchers classified the incident as a “mass casualty incident, level 3,” which means 10 or more people likely suffered injuries, and there was a need for paramedics, fire crews and hospital readiness across the region. Casualty can mean injury and does not necessarily mean fatalities.

Is the NTSB investigating?

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday night held a live stream press conference to announce that they are launching an investigation into the crash.

The NTSB’s Transportation Disaster Assistance Team will visit the crash scene Wednesday and begin their preliminary investigation into the crash. That preliminary investigation report will be ready in a few weeks, said Jennifer Homendy, chair of the NTSB. A more in-depth investigative report on the crash will not be ready for another 12 to 18 months.

Interstate 70 eastbound is now open as authorities continue to investigate the fatal crash.

When will I-70 west near Route 310 reopen?

At a Tuesday press conference, state officials warned to expect that I-70 would be closed for some time as the investigation into the crash continues.

Ohio Department of Transportation spokesperson Matt Bruning said that I-70 westbound is being diverted to State Route 158. However, Bruning said Tuesday night that crews have already started repairing the damage done to the asphalt from the fiery crash. He said he is confident that the work will be completed by Wednesday, but he could not give a specific time.