On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report on a fiery crash that killed five children and two truck drivers on a Florida interstate in 2019.
The NTSB’s May 27, 2021 crash report looked into a fatal, January 3, 2019, multi-vehicle crash on I-75 near Alachua, Florida.
The Florida Highway Patrol said that around 3:40 p.m., a semi truck driven by 59 year old Steve Holland was traveling north on I-75 when it struck a Honda Accura.
Both the semi and the Honda crashed through the center guardrail and into the southbound lanes of I-75, crashing into a church van and a second semi truck. A pickup was also involved in the crash.
Five children inside the church van, which was bound for Disney World, died in the multi-vehicle crash — Joel Cloud, 14, Jeremiah Warren, 14, Cierra Bordelan, 9, Cara Descant, 13, and Brieana Descant, 10.
Holland and truck driver Douglas Bolkema, 49, also passed away in the crash.
From the NTSB’s Thursday report:
…the truck driver’s incapacitation resulted in his failure to maintain his travel lane and led to the truck crossing the highway’s center median and colliding with several vehicles in the opposite lanes of travel. Evidence from the roadway, dashboard camera and witness interviews suggest the driver did not attempt evasive action as the truck veered across the median and into oncoming traffic. The crash resulted in seven fatalities and injuries to eight others. The crash involved five vehicles.
Autopsy results identified “ischemic heart disease” as a contributing factor in the truck driver’s cause of death, however, the truck driver had a number of medical conditions and used medication that could also have caused incapacitation.
During his most recent medical certification examination, the driver did not disclose all his medical conditions nor all the medications he was taking. The failure to disclose his conditions to medical examiners led to his receipt of medical certifications valid for the maximum of two years each. NTSB investigators noted that had the driver disclosed his relevant health information it may have resulted in a shorter medical certification period, but it would not have predicted his incapacitation on the day of the crash.
NTSB investigators determined the Eagle Express truck, a 2016 Freightliner with a 2018 Vanguard semitrailer, had no apparent defects that would have led to the crash. Analysis of maintenance records and a search of the safety recall database and related records showed no factors relevant to the events in this crash.