Though the National Transportation Safety Board has released scores of documents on last year's tragic school bus crash in Chesterfield, N.J., a spokesman said investigators would probably not issue its final report — including a probable cause — until later this year.
The data released includes more than 1,300 pages of reports and records, including witness interviews, state truck weight regulations and collision diagrams, and 61 photos of the crash scene and four-way intersection.
The accident occurred when a school bus en route to Chesterfield Elementary School and a dump truck en route from a New Jersey Turnpike construction site crashed at an intersection that had seen several prior accidents. NTSB crash reports indicate that 15 accidents were recorded there between 2007 and 2011. Now, Burlington County plans to install a roundabout at this intersection, although officials told The Times of Trenton it is not a direct response to the school bus crash but has been under review since 2004.
According to the NTSB accident summary, on Feb. 16, 2012, a 2012 International lap belt–equipped school bus operated by a 66-year-old male and occupied by 25 students in grades kindergarten through sixth was traveling northbound on Old York Road. The bus stopped before entering the intersection with Bordentown-Chesterfield Road (BCR 528), while a 2004 Mack truck with a dump container carrying broken asphalt operated by a 38-year-old male driver was traveling east on BCR 528. The front of the Mack truck struck the left rear of the school bus behind the rear axle, spinning the bus around until it struck a traffic light pole.
As a result, one student passenger suffered fatal injuries, while the school bus driver and 15 student passengers sustained minor to serious injuries. The week after the crash, the entire community mourned the loss of sixth-grader Isabelle Tezsla, 11, the daughter of a state trooper, and awaited word on her seriously injured triplet sisters, Natalie and Sophie, as well as Jonathan Zdybel, 11. The three children subsequently recovered.
Soon after, the NTSB reported that it found the asphalt-hauling truck was 5 percent overweight and that 66-year-old John Tieman had been a school bus driver for only three weeks before the crash.
Police issued motor vehicle citations to both drivers and Herman's Trucking Inc., which owned the dump truck, but have not yet filed criminal charges in the case. Burlington County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Joel Bewley said the office is waiting on the NTSB's final report to decide whether further charges are necessary.
Board spokesman Keith Holloway noted that it isn't NTSB's job to assign blame or make recommendations on criminal or civil charges. "Our role is not to do the role, I guess, of law enforcement," he said. "Our role is to determine what happened and make safety recommendations to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Susan and Anthony Tezsla filed lawsuits last April against both drivers and the bus and trucking companies for "negligence and recklessness." They are also seeking unspecified damages related to Isabelle's death and their other daughters' injuries.