Victims of crash identified, NTSB launches probe
TOWN OF LOUISVILLE, New York (WWNY) - A Massena funeral home has identified the 6 people who died in Saturday’s head-on crash in the town of Louisville.
According to Donaldson Funeral Home, the men are:
- Alejandro Vazquez Valdez, 45, Puebla, Mexico
- Jesus Martinez Parra, 44, Puebla, Mexico
- Abel de Jesus Lopez Lopez, 39, Chapias, Mexico
- Jose de Jesus Aguirre Tronco, 35, Vigencia, Mexico
- Pedro Pablo Galicia Ignacio, 29, Puebla, Mexico
- Jonatan Hernadez Gomez, 25, Chiapas, Mexico
The funeral home said a memorial mass will be held Wednesday at 2 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Church in Weedsport, which is where the victims’ employer, LBFNY, LLC, is located.
Burials will be held in Mexico.
Donaldson Funeral Home said it’s handling local arrangements.
The 6 men were killed in a collision that happened at 6 a.m. Saturday on State Route 37 in the town of Louisville.
The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB), which is in St. Lawrence County investigating the crash scene, released new information about the collision.
Officials said a Freightliner box truck and a 2013 express bus were traveling in opposite directions.
“The box truck was rented by Penske to a motor carrier. The driver was the sole occupant of the box truck. As the two vehicles approached each other, the box truck crossed over the highway center line and collided with the bus,” said NTSB Member Tom Chapman.
Officials said the first full day of the investigation will begin Tuesday and the 6-member team will be at the scene for the next 4 to 6 days.
The NTSB said the 6 people who died were aboard the bus owned by LBFNY, a central New York solar farm installer.
The LBFNY employees were headed to work on a project in the Madrid area.
7 News made a number of attempts to reach the owner of the Weedsport business. He did not respond.
LBFNY’s website lists no phone number and a section on the site for applying for work, all in Spanish, was removed Monday.
According to the NTSB, all of those killed were among the 15 people on the bus.
They also said the drivers of both vehicles were hurt.
State police said one person is in critical condition and two others are seriously injured.
The NTSB said its investigation will be complete in 12 to 18 months.
“We’re going to be looking at the conditions at the time, the weather, the vehicles involved, maintenance records, operating history of the companies involved and we’ll be looking at the drivers, the operators as well. Our mission isn’t just to find out what happened, but why it happened and to recommend changes to prevent it from happening again,” said Chapman.
He said he believes 15 passengers are allowed on a bus that size and didn’t know whether the bus had seatbelts.
The NTSB is looking for any witnesses to the crash. They can contact the board at email@example.com or by calling 866-328-6347.
Meanwhile, St. Lawrence County Coroner Sienkiewycz ruled the deaths were caused by blunt force trauma.
“This was a mass fatality incident where a makeshift morgue was quickly set up to allow St. Lawrence County Medical Examiner Scott Lapoint, MD the ability to examine each individual,” said Sienkiewycz in a news release. “This allowed the New York State BCI, Coroner, and Chad Green of the Donaldson Funeral Home the ability to work to confirm the identity of all who had died.”
He said all known next of kin have been notified.
At the height of the emergency response, St. Lawrence County emergency rooms scrambled to prepare for as many as 15 patients Saturday morning.
The word came in at a shift change at Canton-Potsdam Hospital; the overnight crew stayed on and other doctors and nurses rushed in to help - even on their day off.
“I think it was more people than I’ve ever seen in our emergency department before. We started off just trying to break into teams, anticipating where patients would go when they came,” said Emergency Room Director Dr. Justin MacKinnon, Canton-Potsdam Hospital.
“The staff that were on site immediately had every single nursing department and other departments on standby and ready to help and intervene,” said St. Lawrence Health Chief Nursing Officer Lisa Oldham.
The bus driver, one passenger, and the driver of the box truck went to area hospitals. Two were taken to Massena Memorial Hospital. One was taken to Canton-Potsdam. The others chose not to be treated.
“We didn’t get the mass influx we were anticipating luckily, but we were ready for it if we did,” said Dr. MacKinnon.
A language barrier required nurses and doctors to use technology to translate for the Spanish-speaking men.
In a chaotic moment, hospital officials say their teams rose to the moment.
“No questions asked, people jumped in their cars, people stayed, they really are dedicated to the community that we serve,” said Oldham.
“We had the resources we needed, the staff we needed, we had everyone who was willing to come in on a snowy morning, or stay late, and do everything necessary to take care of people who needed it, so yea, I couldn’t be prouder of the staff,” said Dr. MacKinnon.
Traumatic events like this crash can weigh on the minds of first responders. The county held a debriefing Monday afternoon to check in with people who were on the scene and provide them with any help they need.
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