A truck driver who plowed into a car at a school bus stop last week, killing seven children, had been awake for 34 hours, except for a short nap, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday.
Alvin Wilkerson, 31, was driving a load of bottled water from High Springs to Jacksonville, a distance of 85 miles, when he crashed into the other vehicle.
David Rayburn, the NTSB’s lead investigator in the crash, said fatigue was one of many factors being reviewed.
“He was driving quite a bit during those 34 hours,” Rayburn said, adding that Wilkerson was making deliveries and loading and unloading his truck.
Wilkerson, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, has refused to speak with investigators. Rayburn and the Florida Highway Patrol would not release the name of his attorney.
Blood tests showed he had not been using alcohol or drugs and was not using his cell phone at the time of the accident, investigators said. They still do not know if a dog riding in Wilkerson’s truck played any part in the collision.
Wilkerson’s employer, Crete Carrier Corp. of Lincoln, Neb., issued a statement Friday saying the NTSB’s statements were preliminary. “Like the NTSB, our desire is to determine the cause of the accident,” said Jack Peetz, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
The NTSB, using an identical school bus and truck, determined the school bus should have been visible for more than half a mile. The truck left some light skid marks before hitting the car and pushing it into the school bus.
The car burst into flames, killing all seven children, and forcing it under the school bus, which had nine children aboard. Two children from the bus remained hospitalized Friday in Gainesville.