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Investigation finds faulty guardrail care related to bus accident

A federal investigation has found that the Texas Department of Transportation failed to properly maintain a guardrail on an I-610 overpass that gave way during a bus accident in 2015.

The accident happened on Sept. 15, 2015 and involved a Houston Independent School District bus. The bus was struck by another vehicle and then broke through the guardrail on the bridge above Telephone Road on I-610.

Two students, 14 and 17, were killed in the accident.

The investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board did not directly link the improperly repaired guardrail as the cause of the accident.

A press release from the NTSB states: "TxDOT determined there had been a previous severe impact to the bridge rail in the same location as this crash. The previous impact resulted in significant damage to the concrete parapet and the anchor bolts. Evidence indicated that the bolts had been bent over by this impact, and then they were bent back and reused rather than being replaced. The previous impact also resulted in significant damage at the posts. Repair mortar had been used to patch spalls at the posts caused by the impact. The repair mortar was inferior in overall quality to the original concrete and was completely carbonated in some locations, which significantly increased the corrosion potential for the embedded steel."

When the school bus accident happened, the guardrail in place on the I-610 bridge was an original from 1970. It was not rated to absorb the impact of a bus traveling at highway speed. What is still not known is if a guardrail in new condition of the same type would have prevented the bus from plunging off the highway.

The guardrail on that stretch of highway has been replaced since the accident, but it is still of the same test-level rating of TL-3 as the old guardrail even though it is of modern design.

Bus accidents happen every year on Houston highways due to various factors that include weather, speed, distracted driving and malfunctioning equipment. A Houston area wrongful death attorney can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one is injured or killed in bus accidents.

Source: click2houston, "Faulty guardrail repair in deadly I-610 bus accident, feds find," Joel Eisenbaum, Dec. 12, 2016

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Brian Jensen

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