NTSB Investigation: Pickup driver was drug-impaired leading up to fatal church bus crash

Southbound view of accident vehicles at final rest. (Source: Texas Department of Public Safety)

A driver accused of causing a massive deadly crash involving a pickup truck and a church bus was impaired due to his use of marijuana and a prescribed sedative, according to a National Transportation Safety board investigation.

The findings of the NTSB investigation were revealed on Tuesday, a year and a half after 13 people were killed in the crash along Highway 83 in Uvalde County. All the victims were parishioners of the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels. The only survivor was a woman sitting in the back corner of the bus, furthest from the point of impact.

The investigation found the driver, Jack Dillon Young, was impaired due to his use of marijuana and Clonazepam, a sedative used to treat anxiety. Young was prescribed Clonazepam, but the NTSB said he routinely misused the medication, sometimes taking more than the prescribed amount. They also stated marijuana and Clonazepam were potent depressants and likely enhanced the impairing effect of the other.

Investigators also referenced a video of Young's driving just before the crash, which was captured on cell phone by two witnesses who also called 911 to report him. The video shows the truck crossing the white and yellow lines dozens of times in 14 minutes.

At the time of the crash, Young told officers he was checking his phone for a text message, but the NTSB found his erratic driving leading up to the crash was likely not the result of him checking his phone.

The investigation also revealed deficiencies in the lap belts worn by the victims on the church bus. The NTSB investigation revealed the belts did not provide sufficient protection for the bus occupants and is recommending that bus manufacturers install shoulder belts moving forward.

Young was charged with 13 counts of intoxication manslaughter and 13 counts of manslaughter. He pleaded no contest to the charges in May and is set to be sentenced in November.

More information about the NTSB investigation can be found here.

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