BIG SPRING, TX — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its docket about the November 2021 crash involving a caravan of buses that were involved in a fatal crash while transporting Andrews High School students to a football game. According to the reporting in the document dump, the driver of an F-350 that apparently caused the crash was not driving while impaired. Neither were the Andrews ISD bus drivers.
On Nov. 19, 2021, the Andrews High School band, cheerleaders, and football team were en route to a playoff football game when tragedy struck. A 2016 Ford F-350 pickup truck had entered I-20 the wrong way headed westbound on an eastbound off-ramp and ended up traveling westbound in the eastbound lanes of the major interstate. The pickup collided with the band bus killing its driver, 59-year-old Nathan Paul Haile. Also killed were the driver of the lead bus, Marc Elbert Boswell, 69, who was piloting a 2005 MCI Motorcoach. The band director who was sitting in the right front seat of the lead bus, Darin Kimbrogh Johns, 53, of Andrews, was also killed. The next bus in the caravan sustained minor damage and there were no fatalities. The third bus was unscathed.
The crash happened 4:02 p.m. about two miles east of Big Spring on I-20. From other reports we know the buses were carrying students, the band, cheerleaders, and football team to the UIL playoff football game in Sweetwater. The game was canceled after news of the tragedy reached officials.
According to NTSB documents, Nathan Haile, the driver of the F-350, did not have anything abnormal or impairing in his system as revealed in the toxicology report. The NTSB traced the mishap driver’s activities for two days preceding the crash.
“[T]he truck driver went to bed around 10 p.m. and woke up around 5:30 a.m. On the day of the crash, the truck driver left the house between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and planned to spend the day evangelizing,” the NTSB document states.
The F-350 driver was a part-time preacher and operated a machine shop at his residence since 1997, servicing the oil field. On the day of the fatal crash, however, he was performing duties related to his preaching gig, visiting people at various businesses near the I-20 business district in Big Spring.
The NTSB traced his steps immediately prior to the fatal crash.
“The surveillance videos from Don’s Tire Service, Eagles Den Suites, and Hulls Meat Company showed that the truck driver generally walked using a quick pace, approached strangers confidently, and gesticulated while speaking. Texas DPS interviewed several individuals who spoke with the truck driver prior to the crash, and they all indicated that the truck driver spoke quickly and was very animated during the conversation. He was also in a hurry to leave so that he could continue speaking with others,” the NTSB documents stated.
Toxicology and human factors information about the mishap bus drivers also indicated none were impaired.
Other documents in the investigation docket spend considerable time describing the signage and environment around the eastbound off-ramp that the F-350 driver drove up heading the wrong way.
“The truck driver made a left from Birdwell Lane to East 3rd Street and headed east. However, from Birdwell, only right turns are allowed because East 3rd Street is a one-way eastbound road. Surveillance video from the Quality Inn on East 3rd Street showed the truck driver going the wrong way and entering the off-ramp of I-20 east. Finally, surveillance video from the Crossroads Collision Center showed the truck driver proceeding west on eastbound I-20 and being passed by an eastbound vehicle,” the report states.
The NTSB has not released its final report but releasing the docket is a step towards publishing its conclusions on what caused the fatal crash that day.
According to the NTSB documents, 73 people were involved in the crash. Three died, 10 sustained serious injury, and 40 suffered minor injuries. Only 20 were uninjured.