Driver: Bus owner said 11-year-old tires were ‘new,' describes crash

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 12:31 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 19 at 8:11 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- The driver of a charter bus that crashed on I-64 in Louisville on June 11 says the owner of the bus had told her its tires were new.

Earlier this month, a WHAS11 News investigation revealed the front tires on Commonwealth Bus 450 were 11 years old.  A friend of the bus owner told federal investigators he had retrieved the tires from a scrap bin at a Louisville auto repair shop, according to documents obtained by WHAS11 News.

The driver, Veloris Tobin, 48, was questioned on October 30 in a deposition conducted by Ann Oldfather, an attorney for Samuel Russell, one of 29 high school students injured when the bus careened into a concrete median.

The Louisville Metro Police collision report cites a blown left front tire as the cause of the crash.

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Tobin said the bus owner, Michael Goad, told her the day prior to the crash that he had installed "new" tires on the bus.

"We talked Monday. He said he put new tires on," Tobin said.  "So I don't know prior to what day that it could have been. Do not know."

He said, "I'm just letting you know that I did put some new tires on 450, on the front end of 450. I did not ask him what type, what size," Tobin said.

Video captured by a truck's dash-cam shows the bus suddenly lurch from the right lane of I-64 West, across two other lanes then into the median.

Tobin said the tire blowing sounded like a firecracker at Thunder Over Louisville boom.

"It was a loud, loud boom," she said.

"The next thing I know, the bus starts swinging to the left," Tobin recalled. "And I'm fighting it to try to stay in my lane."

Tobin, a Jefferson County Public School bus driver for 12 years and Commonwealth driver the last seven years, said she gave "all the power" she had to try to regain control of the bus.

"I'm applying it full force. And when I say "full force," I mean, full for -- force," Tobin said.

"It still moved me over to the left-hand side," Tobin continued.  "It moved me to the left, but I'm still fighting with it. And the next thing I know is that impact with the wall."

Tobin testified prior to the airing of WHAS11'S I-team investigation which revealed dozens of violations by Commonwealth Bus Service.

The bus owner - Michael Goad - admitted to federal investigators that Bus 450 had not had an annual inspection for "a few years."

And, a friend of Goad's told federal officials he got the front tires for Bus 450 from a scrap tire bin at Tony's Brake and Alignment.  The business says it did not condone or authorize any such action.

Tobin said the morning of the crash, she kicked the tires but noticed no problems during a pre-trip inspection with Goad on his property near the Bullitt County line.

Though forensic mechanic Scott Burrows's report for Metro Police found sufficient tread and no signs of uneven wear on the 11 year old tires, Goodyear analysts consulted by LMPD found evidence the "tire was used for some time prior to being mounted on this vehicle" and showed signs it had been used under-inflated, over-loaded or both.

"It was like boom, and then it start, you know, jerking me and everything," Tobin said.  "So it was like boom, bam, boom, boom."

As Tobin gestured, attorney Ann Oldfather asked to see her fingernails, which appeared on the deposition videotape to be at least one inch long.

"Have you always had your fingernails that amazing length?" Oldfather asked.

"Yes, ma'am," Tobin replied smiling, adding that the fingernails are natural.

"How do you make a grip, a fist with your fingernails that long?" Oldfather asked.

Tobin then demonstrated, holding her fists up for the camera.

She recalled the moments after the crash.

"I said, 'Please get all these kids off the bus.  Please get them off the bus. Exit out the back. Exit out the back. Please get them off the bus.'" Tobin said.

Her own pelvis broken and several ribs fractured, Tobin said she could not move from the drivers seat as she turned off the engine and engaged the emergency brake.  She said panic set in.

"All these kids was just screaming and hollering and I was like - oh I'm hurt," Tobin said.

To this day, Tobin said she has not looked at photos of the bus tire -- The scars from the crash of Commonwealth Bus 450 still tender as she relives June 11.
               
"I had my eyes shut, and I know it was bright outside," Tobin said. "And when he took me off the bus, I had my eyes shut. I didn't want to see nothing. I kept my eyes shut the whole time."
 

 

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