Oklahoma investigators have not concluded whether a truck driver’s inattention was the cause of last Friday’s highway collision that killed four members of a Texas college softball team.
According to ABC News, officers still decline to state what, if anything, distracted the person driving the empty truck. That truck veered through a median into southbound traffic and hit a bus filled with 15 North Central Texas College softball players and a coach who was driving the bus.
The driver of the truck has been identified 53-year-old Russell Stacy of Saginaw, Texas. Staley declined to comment when contacted by phone by the Associated Press.
Four of the North Central Texas College players were killed in the accident; Meagan Richardson, 19, Brooke Deckard, 20, Katelynn Woodlee, 18, and Jaiden Pelton, 20. Two other members of the team remain hospitalized; Bailey Buchanan, 18, was listed in good condition and 19-year-old Rachel Hitt remained in fair condition. The rest of the team and the coach were treated and released.
Three of the players died at the scene and a fourth died at a hospital in nearby Sulphur, Oklahoma, Highway Patrol Captain Ronnie Hampton said.
Highway Patrol Captain Hampton said Staley had told investigators that something in the cab of the truck distracted him, but emphasized that Staley’s statement would not be taken at face value.
“The driver’s statement is one piece in that puzzle of 100 pieces,” Hampton told reporters Monday. “We will compare his statement with the other 99 pieces of evidence.”
Federal investigators said Sunday that the truck continued straight after the crash for another 300 feet, then drove from the scene. Authorities found the truck an hour later.
Harry Crabtree, vice president of safety for the trucking company involved, Quickway Carriers, declined to discuss Staley’s employment or the circumstances of the crash, citing the ongoing state and federal investigations.
“Our hearts are broken over this,” he said, adding that the company is cooperating with authorities.
The college, located in Gainesville, Texas, brought in grief counselors for their students and cancelled all sporting events in the interim, according to the Huffington Post.
“This is the most traumatic event that NCTC has had in its 90 years of history,” College President Brent Wallace said at an emotional news conference Saturday in Gainesville, Texas, about 60 miles south of the crash site on Interstate 35.
The National Transportation Safety Board will be working in conjunction with the Oklahoma State Highway Patrol and both drivers will undergo several toxicological exams to find the answer.
[Image courtesy of KENZ]