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NTSB Releases Preliminary Report of PA Turnpike Crash, But No Cause Has Been Determined

Pennsylvania State Police via the National Transportation Safety Board
A view of the January 5, 2020 crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Westmoreland County.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Thursday on January's fatal Pennsylvania Turnpike crash in Westmoreland County. In the early morning hours of Jan. 5, five people died after a tour bus collided with an embankment and caused a chain reaction accident.

The report includes more details about what exactly happened during the crash. At about 3:30 a.m., a 57-passenger motorcoach operated by New Jersey-based Z&D Tour, Inc. veered onto the paved left shoulder, then crossed all lanes to the right shoulder and collided with an embankment. It rolled onto its passenger side and stopped, stretching diagonally across the westbound lanes. The Turnpike speed limit in the area of the crash is 70 miles per hour, but a sign ahead of the incident announces a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit due to a curve.

The motorcoach was then struck by a FedEx Ground truck, which was then hit by a UPS truck. A Mercedes-Benz and a second UPS truck were also involved.

There were five fatalities in total. Three victims from New York City were on the tour bus: the 58-year-old bus driver, Shuang Qing Feng, of Queens, and two passengers, Eileen Zelis Aria, 35, of the Bronx, and 9-year-old Jaremy Vazquez, of Brooklyn, according to the Westmoreland County coroner's office.

The two UPS drivers, Daniel Kepner, 53, and Dennis Kehler, 48, were also killed in the crash. At least 60 people were transported to local hospitals with a range of injuries.

The NTSB report does not shed any light on the cause of the crash, but an investigation into the commercial drivers involved in the crash, vehicle performance, and the Turnpike's snow and ice removal procedures is ongoing.

"All aspects of the crash remain under investigation while the NTSB determines the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar events," the report said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.