Investigators for the National Transportation Safety Board say confusing highway signs, driver error and a lack of passenger safety features contributed to the deaths of five college baseball players in an Atlanta bus crash last year . . .
. . . Investigators said the bus driver thought he was getting on an HOV lane when he drove onto an elevated exit ramp, plowing through a stop sign at highway speed and hurtling from an overpass onto the interstate below . . .
. . . NTSB investigator Dave Rayburn said Georgia officials changed the layout of the signs after having trouble with their mounting. The change deviated from federal guidance about placement of certain exit signs to make them more clear, he said, but the change did not amount to a violation of federal regulations, which allow for some exceptions. Rayburn said nine accidents have occurred at the site between 1997 and 2007, including three fatal collisions. The drivers in all of the crashes were from outside the Atlanta area.
NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker called it "an accident that didn't have to happen."
Which seems to be the case here. Based on the NTSB report, any number of things could have prevented this accident. The highway could have been marked better. The driver could have paid greater attention. The bus could have been made of stronger materials. It didn't happen that way, however, and seven people died.
Last year these thoughts led me to the conclusion that the problem isn't a system incapable of rationally addressing tragedy as much as it is our own problem for feeling like we can address tragedy rationally in the first place. I still feel the same way. Rationality plays little or no role when the death of a loved one is involved. Neither does the fantasy known as "closure."
It is my hope, therefore, that as the Bluffton survivors await the next deposition and next court date, as they await the next public hearing during which they can address the safety of bus windows or the proper marking of roads, they're taking the time to do less, well, rational things. I hope they are spending as much time as possible searching for the perspective necessary to accept life without their sons and brothers. I hope they aren't becoming consumed with punishing people for allegedly taking those sons away in the first place.