LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A bus loaded with students returning from a college campus visit that careened out of control and crashed on a Kentucky interstate had not undergone a state safety inspection in at least two years, a vehicle enforcement official said Wednesday.
Thirty high school students from Louisville along with four adults aboard the bus were taken to hospitals after the vehicle veered left across three lanes of traffic on Interstate 64 and hit a concrete median Tuesday in eastern Jefferson County. Several people remained hospitalized Wednesday.
Louisville police continued to investigate Wednesday, looking into possible mechanical failure as a cause – which could include tire trouble. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was assisting in the investigation.
Charter buses on Kentucky roads can undergo random roadside inspections by state vehicle enforcement officers, but the bus that crashed Tuesday hadn't been stopped for such a check in at least two years, said state Commercial Vehicle Enforcement spokesman DeWayne Koch.
"It may have just gotten under our radar and never been stopped," he said.
The agency was trying to learn more about the damaged bus on Wednesday.
It could have been much longer than two years since the bus had been pulled over for a random state safety check, and it's possible it was never singled out for such a roadside review, Koch said.
Koch said charter bus operators are required to conduct their own annual safety inspections, done by certified mechanics. State officials want to review those records for the crashed bus. It was leased to Commonwealth Bus Service & Transportation Inc., Koch said.
Company officials did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.
The owner of the bus met with vehicle enforcement officers Wednesday and was cooperating, Koch said.
Copies of those internal safety checks are required to be kept on the vehicles and at the bus services' offices, Koch said.
Commonwealth's fleet of vehicles had not been involved in any crashes resulting in fatalities or injuries for at least two years before Tuesday's wreck, according to federal safety records compiled by the motor carrier safety administration.
Its most recent report showed Commonwealth had 14 vehicles and the same number of drivers. Its vehicles logged 280,000 miles in 2010, spanning beyond Kentucky.
The wreck could potentially trigger a compliance review of the company by state or federal regulators, Koch said. That review would include inspecting the vehicles, log books and drivers' time sheets, he said.
The company underwent such a review from federal inspectors in 2006, resulting in a satisfactory rating, he said.
Kentucky's Commercial Vehicle Enforcement division has about 20 inspectors certified to inspect charter buses, Koch said.
Last year, those inspectors conducted 604 random roadside safety checks of vehicles that included charter buses, he said. Those reviews uncovered 440 safety violations and resulted in 46 vehicles ordered off the roads due to safety issues, he said.
Figures for this year showed 212 inspections, he said. He didn't have statistics on how many vehicles were ordered off the highways.
It's possible that some vehicles are randomly picked multiple times for the checks, while many other buses never get stopped, he said.
The bus that crashed Tuesday was returning to Louisville after students from Waggener High School had visited Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. The students were participating in a program that gives students a chance to visit different college campuses.
A second bus carrying Waggener students on the same college outing was not involved in the crash.
Similar college visits planned Wednesday and Thursday for Louisville students were canceled, said Jefferson County public schools spokesman Ben Jackey. Officials hope to reschedule those outings, he said.