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Development & Transportation

Speeding contributed to deadly 2020 Pennsylvania Turnpike crash near Mount Pleasant

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Pennsylvania State Police
A multivehicle crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike killed five people and injured nearly 60 others on Jan. 5, 2020.

The National Transportation Safety Board has released details of an extensive investigation into a deadly 2020 crash along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Westmoreland County. Speed was determined to be a key factor.

"The motorcoach was traveling too fast on a wet roadway while in a descending curve," said Kenny Bragg, the NTSB's human performances group chairman. "The driver's failure to reduce speed on the wet roadway contributed to the loss of control, which initiated the crash."

The early morning crash on Jan. 5, 2020, killed five people and injured nearly 60 others. A motorcoach, two UPS tractor-trailers, a FedEx tractor-trailer and a car were involved.

Video captured by cameras on the FedEx truck helped investigators piece together the sequence of events leading up to the crash.

The motorcoach was traveling westbound through a curve when the driver lost control of the vehicle, hit an embankment and overturned before sliding across the highway. The overturned motor coach blocked both westbound lanes of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The FedEx tractor-trailer and a UPS tractor-trailer crashed into the overturned coach seconds later.

The other UPS truck hit a passenger vehicle that had stopped to avoid the initial crash.

Investigators found the motorcoach was traveling at 77 mph before entering the curve. The posted speed limit in the area is 70 mph. Investigators found the driver hit braked, slowing to about 70 mph within the curve.

The FedEx truck had slowed considerably to about 21 mph when it struck the overturned motorcoach.

The driver of the first UPS truck was found to be traveling at 71 mph before noticing the FedEx truck's brake lights. The driver of the first UPS truck began braking and steering to the right, but it was insufficient to avoid the crash.

"The motorcoach and [first] UPS [truck] entered the curve at speeds in excess of the 70 mph posted speed," said NTSB Board member Thomas Chapman. "This, despite the weather and the poor road conditions at the time."
There was light snow falling at the time of the crash.

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Pennsylvania State Police

"Had [the first UPS truck] been traveling at a slower speed before entering the curve, they would've had a better opportunity to avoid or reduce the severity of the crash," said Bragg.

The second UPS truck entered the curve at about 69 mph when the driver said he noticed the collision and began braking and steering to the right. The truck went up an embankment before colliding with the passenger vehicle that had stopped to avoid the initial crash. The collision pushed the passenger vehicle underneath the first UPS truck.

Investigators said there was not enough data to determine whether driver fatigue played a role. The motorcoach was 10 miles from its next stop where another driver was scheduled to take over the route.

The report found that the motorcoach driver was cited for speeding 24 miles away from the crash location about five months earlier. The driver had previously been involved in two minor crashes, one while operating as a motorcoach.

As a result of the crash, the motorcoach driver, two motorcoach passengers and the driver and co-driver of the first UPS truck died. About 57 motorcoach passengers were injured. The FedEx truck driver was not injured, but the FedEx co-driver had minor injuries. The driver of the car, the car's two passengers, and the driver and co-driver of the second UPS truck were not injured.