LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- The tire that failed moments before a charter school bus crashed on I-64 in June was 11-years-old and shows signs of prior use which compromised its soundness, analysts say in the Louisville Metro Police investigation reviewed by WHAS11 News.
Thirty students, four adult passengers and the driver, Veloris Tobin, were injured on June 11 when the left front tire suddenly failed. Video captured by a trailing semi-truck driver shows the bus careened across three interstate lanes before slamming into a concrete median.
The bus was on its way back from a campus visit to Eastern Kentucky University and organized by Waggener High School.
LMPD documents include an independent post-crash inspection report which found the front tires were manufactured in April of 2002.
"It's easy enough to look at the markings on the tire and determine exactly when that tire was manufactured," William F. McMurry, an attorney for six bus passengers, said. "There's no way that these tires could have been put on that bus without the owner/operator knowing it. The poor bus driver, she'd been told they were new and just put on that week before she drove off that day."
McMurry said Tobin testified about the tires during a deposition last week. He said his clients suffered injuries such as a broken back, broken arm and a brain injury.
"It is an absolute travesty of justice and safety for these children to be subjected to this kind of reckless cobbling together of equipment for an old school bus," McMurry said.
"I think Jefferson County Public Schools would be very disappointed to learn as we are today that these tires are 11-years-old," McMurry continued. "The regulations by our school system require them to be new and from the manufacturer."
To be clear, the bus that crashed is not a Jefferson County Public School District bus. A JCPS spokesman said the district had not seen the report so it cannot comment on it.
Instead, the bus is owned by longtime local bus operator Michael Goad under the umbrella of Commonwealth Bus Service & Transportation which operates charters for the school district.
Commonwealth Bus Services declined comment on advice of its attorney and WHAS11 was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach Mr. Goad.
While the report says Goad indicated the tires had only recently been put on the bus, analysts from the Goodyear Innovation Center in Akron, Ohio wrote that the tires showed signs they were compromised by earlier use.
The report says the tires show signs of "over-deflected operation" a result of "under-inflation, overloading or a combination of both."
"If you under-inflate those tires it damages those tires and makes them more susceptible to catastrophic explosion and failure," McMurry explained. "And that's what we have here."
The Goodyear analysts wrote that over-deflection creates excessive stresses, heat build-up, and weakens the adhesive bonds of the tire components.
Even if the tires were properly inflated the day of the crash, the report suggests they were irreversibly damaged.
"It's a ticking time bomb," McMurry told WHAS11. "It is going to blow; it is just a question of when."