News Media Truth Test
We fact checked the latest claim that Champion Bus made about the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation of the bus accident that killed four players on the North Central Texas College Lady Lions softball team. What a whopper they told!
Fox4News KDFW in Dallas reported that the 2008 Champion Defender Bus that carried fifteen girls in the deadly accident suffered from serious structural weaknesses: 80% of the welds were defective and structural members were missing, butchered or spliced together.
The news report by Fox4 Reporter James Rose quoted from a Null Consulting examination of both the damaged side where three girls were ejected and the undamaged side of the bus. The report found a long list of problems and stated that first and foremost the welds did not comply with American Welding Quality Standards: “With this particular bus, the failure to utilize quality control plans and procedures, the lack of weld drawings and failure to utilize quality weld assurance, certification and testing systems, resulted in a bus being manufactured that violated welding industry standards…”
Champion Bus Statement — Did Pinocchio Write This?
The Champion Bus Company responded to Fox4News with a bold face lie in its statement:
“The crash was fully investigated by NTSB and the bus was not found defective in any way. The bus fully complied with all safety requirements.”
In fact, the NTSB’s 69-page investigation of the accident which occurred while the girls were returning from a softball scrimmage in Oklahoma back to their campus in Gainesville, Texas clearly disputes the false claims by the Champion Bus company.
We have listed them below. So how could the Champion Bus company be living in an alternate reality when it comes to the safety of their buses?
“I Know Nothing!”
The sworn video below features some of the testimony by Michael Neuville, the Engineering Manager who oversees the entire engineering department as well as the research and development for the Champion Bus company. Mr. Neuville graduated from college three and half years before the accident occurred with a Bachelor’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering. When the subject bus was assembled, he was in high school.
When it came down to discussing under oath the safety philosophy at Champion Bus, Mr. Neuville’s responses reminded us of the Sergeant Hans Schultz character in the popular Sixties sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. Whenever confronted with blatant evidence of misbehavior Schultz would famously reply, “I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing” and “I see nothing–NOTHING!”
Judge for yourself if Mr. Neuville was candid in his video testimony. Did he tell the truth?
For the record, here’s a link to the NTSB accident report.
Here are some of the NTSB findings about the 2008 Champion Defender Bus. In no way did the safety agency give this bus a clean bill of health.
- Page xii
- Crashworthiness of medium-size buses: Currently, for medium-size buses, there are no crashworthiness standards for side impact and occupant crash protection. The level of injury among bus occupants would have been reduced if the accident bus had met the current and future federal standards for large buses—for occupant protection and for rollover structural integrity. Further, side impact protection standards would enhance the crashworthiness of medium-size buses.
- Page 18
- School bus body panels are typically joined with rivets, whereas the Champion bus series body panels are joined with screws or adhesives.
- Based on the test results, one of the weakest areas of the bus was the juncture between the sides and the lower roof (no. 4 in figure 12). The strength of this area was less than 10 percent of the strength of the weakest body panel. The accident bus had joint failures in the area between the side and the lower roof; additionally, there was separation between the side panel and the lower roof panel (see figure 13, on which a broken joint and displaced panel are circled). The accident bus series does not meet the school bus joint strength standard.
- Page 46
- The side-impact crash sequence compromised the bus structure. All but one of the windows on the bus were broken out, enabling the ejection of unbelted occupants. In addition, the sidewall joints failed. The sidewalls separated from the lower roof panel along the left side of the bus, which combined with the lack of seatbelt use exposed the occupants to a greater risk of injury.
- Page 47
- This model series bus failed the school bus sidewall joint standard (FMVSS 221).
Null Industrial Analysis Consulting Report: Champion Bus Crash Inspection Report of Defective Welds and Missing Structural Members
- The Champion Defender bus contains numerous manufacturing defects that rendered the bus defective and in my professional opinion unreasonably dangerous and unsuitable for service. These manufacturing defects are a direct result of a lack of manufacturing controls to ensure quality welds that would enhance the vehicle’s potential for safety and roadworthiness as well as provide meaningful protection in the event of an accident.
- When a manufacturer is operating without set welding controls and procedures in place, the weld quality is compromised. With this particular bus, the failure to utilize quality control plans and procedures, the lack of weld drawings and failure to utilize quality weld assurance, certification and testing systems, resulted in a bus being manufactured that violated welding industry standards, welding standards and guidelines, and ISO standards.
- Further, with all of these weld and structure deficiencies, there is no way that the subject buses’ welding complied with AWS Specifications such as AWS D8.8M/2014 Specification for Automotive Welding Quality- Arc Welding of Steel (An American Welding Society and American National Standard Institution), quality or certification standards, guidelines or recommended practices.
- When welds are deficient or are missing, the structural strength is decreased, by a reduction in tensile value/yield strength of the effective welds, resulting in a lower overall joint efficiency. When entire sections of structure are missing, this will add significantly to the structural failure. Sadly, the subject bus had all of these deficiencies.
- It was discovered that Champion Bus failed to install section ‘T’ in this side also. Champion Bus had also failed to follow design drawings in the Florida State rollover testing. Not only did removing the skin on the passenger side reveal this missing structural item in the epicenter of the collision, but item L (see Figure 5), 14GA CAP, was found to have been butchered to fit the contour of a tire. This was not denoted in the design drawings.
- Much like Champion Bus had done on the Florida State test, they failed to build the subject bus to the design drawings, forgot to install critical structure, changed the design drawings and did a poor job of welding. These changes and deficiencies had the same result in this tragic accident as they did in the simulated rollover test: the structure failed.
- The majority of the welds on the Champion Defender Bus did not meet the requirements of this specification and therefore would be deemed as “bad welds” under AWS Specifications.
- Having inspected both sides of the bus, as well as the rear of the 2008 Champion Bus, I have found the majority of visible welds to be non-compliant to AWS Welding standards, thus rendering them defective for service. Also, finding lack of engineering controls, such as: undocumented deviations from design i.e. structural members missing from as-built; structural members being drastically modified and not documented in a revision of drawings; and crucial structural members (such as C channel holding the seats stable) having undocumented splices and unspecified materials placed in crucial structural members, are deviations from design demonstrate that the subject bus was defective and unsuitable for service due to its welds and structure.