Bus accidents can have very disastrous consequences because of what is potentially involved: huge moving vehicles potentially containing unrestrained passengers hitting another vehicle or a stationary object like a bridge abutment. Whether the accident occurs on city streets or on the interstate can make the difference between a gentle fender-bender and a high-speed fiery crash.
Because of the weight and size of a usual bus, if the bus is traveling at a low speed, there is usually little consequence or injury. If, however, the bus is traveling at a high speed, injuries generally result because the passengers are normally unprotected. Depending on the circumstances involved, there can be numerous injuries especially if the bus rolls over or catches on fire. If the accident involves another, smaller vehicle, that smaller vehicle will usually be damaged and its passengers could also be seriously. Factors such as rate of speed, size of other side to accident, and if any protection was available on the bus to shield passengers from injury.
An especially agonizing bus crash scenario is the crash of a bus carrying members of a church youth group on the way to or from a retreat. Often, those accidents occur on church-owned vehicles carrying a capacity or above-capacity crowd. The drivers in such a crash are typically not regular bus drivers at all, but are rather volunteers who are church members and who have had little special training to drive a large vehicle empty, much less when it is full of exuberant kids who are hyped up by the event they are going to or leaving from. Often, those busses have been purchased second hand and have already used up one of their vehicle-lives. The maintenance has been spotty and poorly recorded. An accident in that sort of situation while singing songs is unthinkable, but more possible than church leaders want to think about.
A recent incident involving an Indianapolis youth group returning from a week at a camp involved a bus crash in which the brakes on the bus reputedly failed. This ended up sending the bus careening off an exit and into the side of a bridge two miles from the home church as it was returning with the group. That was an in-town crash after a successful out-of-town journey with the group on the bus. A youth pastor, his wife, and one young member died as a result of that crash.
In such a tragic incident, one has to ask whether the bus maintenance records were up to date, whether the bus driver was in fact an actual bus operator or just an individual with a commercial license, and if the church had obtained permission slips on each child in order to handle liability issues in the event that such an occurrence took place. Those are all questions which should have answers prior to embarking on such a trip. Because the driver reported that the brakes failed as the bus was turning, that piece of information could be helpful in finding a partial cause. More fact-finding will need to occur before this situation finds any answers behind the tragedy.