Driver was checking phone for a text when he crashed into church bus

The scene of the church bus crash in Uvalde County on March 29, 2017 that killed 13 people (Department of Public Safety Photo)
The scene of the church bus crash in Uvalde County on March 29, 2017 that killed 13 people (Department of Public Safety Photo)

UVALDE COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The driver of a pickup truck that crashed head-on into a church bus in March, killing 13 people, was looking at his phone for a text message when the crash happened, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The preliminary report, released Thursday, shows Jack Dillon Young, 20, crossed over the solid white line of his northbound lane 37 times, entered the grass roadside at least five times, crossing over the double yellow centerline 19 times and at one point was driving completely on the wrong side of the road before the crash in his 2007 Dodge Ram 3500 pickup truck.

Young left the northbound lane and crossed into the southbound lane, crashing with the the front left corner of the medium-sized bus.

The impact of the crash at around 12:20 p.m. on Wednesday, March, 29, led to the deaths of 13 of the 14 people on board the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels bus, including the bus driver.

Young and one passenger on the bus survived the crash on the two-lane US Highway 83, just north of the town of Concan, Texas. Jody Kuchler and his wife followed Young, recording a 14-minute video of him swerving. The video ends moments before the crash.

After checking on the bus passengers, Kuchler went to see about the pickup driver. “He was kinda halfway down in the floor board. He was pinned. He couldn’t get out and he asked me to help him. I said, ‘Son, do you know what you just did?’ He said, ‘I’m sorry, I was texting.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’” Kuchler said.

The NTSB says analysis of the video shows Young was driving between 67 and 71 miles per hour in the 70 mile per hour posted zone.

The driver also told investigators he had been taking prescription medications prior to the crash, including clonazepam and the generic forms of Lexapro and Ambien. Several of those medications, as well as marijuana, were found in the pickup truck at the scene of the crash, the agency says. However, Young’s toxicology results are still pending.

A subpoena has been issued for Young’s cell phone records. NTSB investigators say they will be reviewing the records over the coming weeks.

All of the those inside the church bus were wearing their seat belts; the driver and front seat passenger were restrained with a lap/shoulder belt and the rear passengers were wearing lap belts.

The NTSB found no mechanical defects in the initial inspection of either vehicle. Nothing has been successfully downloaded from vehicle event-related recording devices. The agency says all aspects of the crash are still under investigation as they work to release the probable cause of the crash and issue safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is conducting a separate, parallel investigation. The driver has not been charged.

Pastor Brad McLean of the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels said, “The report reiterated most of what was already known. We are still working to care for our families and trust God to heal our hearts.”

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