NTSB Releases Findings Of Accident That Claimed Lives Of 5 Children, 2 Truckers
Alachua County, Florida – The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its preliminary accident report into the horrific crash along I-75 near Gainesville earlier this year.
The NTSB report said 59-year-old truck driver Steve Holland was traveling north on I-75 in a 2016 Freightliner on January 3, 2019, when at 3:41 p.m. he veered into an Acura sedan also traveling northbound.
Both vehicles then lost control and went through the center divider before striking a southbound 2006 Chevrolet 12-passenger church van from Louisiana. The van rolled and struck a 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck.
Holland’s semi continued into the oncoming traffic and then struck a 2018 Freightliner tractor-trailer which was in the far-right lane headed southbound. Holland was ejected.
The big rigs erupted into a fiery inferno.
The driver of the Acura was able to extricate herself from the vehicle before it caught fire and went up in flames.
In all, five children ranging in ages from 9 to 14 perished, along with Holland and the driver of the other tractor-trailer, 49-year-old Douglas Bolkema.
The report states that Holland held a legal commercial driver’s license (CDL) that was in good standing.
Additionally, his medical certificate was current until February 2020.
Further, the NTSB investigation found Holland was operating within the regulated hours of service at the time of the crash.
However, according to various news outlets who looked into Holland’s driving history, court documents show Holland was ticketed multiple times between 2000 and 2014 in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Virginia for violations including speeding, driving an unsafe vehicle, driving an overloaded vehicle and not carrying proof of insurance.
At the time of the crash the Florida Highway Patrol indicated it appeared occupants in the church van were not wearing seatbelts.
However, according to the NTSB report, five occupants of the van were wearing seatbelts—including three who were ultimately ejected from the vehicle.
The driver and front seat passenger were restrained with seatbelts and were not ejected.
The NTSB said the accident is still under investigation in order to determine “probable cause” and “with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes.”