Investigators: Tour bus hit guardrail, flipped - East Valley Tribune: News

Investigators: Tour bus hit guardrail, flipped

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Posted: Friday, January 18, 2008 1:48 pm | Updated: 11:44 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

SALT LAKE CITY - Federal investigators have determined that a tour bus filled with skiers had no mechanical problems when it sideswiped 28 feet of a guardrail before skidding off a remote highway in southeastern Utah. Then it rolled once, landing upright on its wheels.

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Pete Kotowski, who is leading the investigation for the National Transportation Safety Board, gave that account Friday of the Jan. 6 crash that killed nine Arizona skiers who were returning from a trip to Telluride, Colo.

Kotowski said investigators still haven't determined a cause for the crash on State Route 163 near Mexican Hat, Utah. The impact sheared off the roof, ejecting 50 of 52 occupants, he said.

About 20 skiers were hurt. St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., says one of the injured, a woman, remained in serious condition Friday.

State and federal investigators who inspected the wreckage have found no mechanical defects or problems with the bus, which Omaha, Neb.-based Arrow Stage Lines previously said was in perfect working condition.

Kotowski said investigators were checking the driver's cell-phone records to determine whether Welland Lotan, 71, was using the phone at the time of the crash. Kotowski said investigators wanted to eliminate that possibility.

Kotowski said Friday that the the investigation shows the bus tumbled over sideways and rolled one complete revolution after it left the road.

Kotowski said a black-box data recorder salvaged from the bus was being analyzed in Washington, D.C., but that the device wasn't capable of recording the speed of the bus. Investigators, however, still expect to be able to determine how fast the bus was traveling from other evidence at the crash scene, he said.

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