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November 8, 2002

Patrol: Bus was traveling 80 mph, seconds before crash

From: FOX Sports
Nov. 8, 2002

Associated Press
Nov. 8, 2002 4:33 p.m.
SHARON SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A charter bus carrying the football team for the Kansas School for the Deaf was going 80 mph seconds before a fatal crash last month, the Highway Patrol says.

The speeding bus went out of control on a curve on U.S. 40 near Sharon Springs, in western Kansas, on Oct. 27. It slid into a ditch and flipped, killing a coach.

The 34 people aboard, including the team and the cheerleaders, were on their way home from a game in Colorado. Everyone in the bus was taken to hospitals after the crash and at least six were kept overnight.

In an accident report filed this week, trooper Andrew Schippers wrote that evidence indicates that bus driver Ronald R. Zimmerman "was traveling too fast and could not make the curve."

The speed limit on the highway is 65 mph. The curve is not significant enough to warrant a suggested slower speed limit, the patrol said.

Records from the computer system on the bus' engine indicate the vehicle was traveling 82 mph about 30 seconds before the accident.

A few seconds later, the data indicate Zimmerman took his foot off the accelerator. He hit the brakes about 10 to 12 seconds before the bus stopped, according to the report.

Schippers said Zimmerman repeatedly told him that "the bus just wouldn't turn" as he approached the minor curve. Zimmerman told the officer that he cranked the steering wheel to the right and gave the bus a little gas in an effort to keep it on the roadway.

The wet roadway probably was a contributing factor to the accident, Schippers said. A light mist was falling when the bus crashed, although he didn't consider the road treacherous that day. The two-lane highway is frequented by cars and large trucks, and no others experienced similar problems.

Zimmerman, the owner of Sunset Tours, has held a commercial motor vehicle license for 30 years, and Schippers said his driving record indicated no previous faults. Zimmerman was ticketed "for speed that is not considered reasonable or prudent."

Schippers said there was no indication at the scene that Zimmerman, who was also injured in the crash, had been drinking. Results of blood and urine tests for drugs and alcohol are expected later this month.

Zimmerman did not return a phone message left by The Associated Press.

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