The course of events, which led to the deaths of four passengers in a bus accident in Kuopio on 24 August 2018, have now largely been clarified
On 24 August 2018, an accident occurred in Kuopio in which a bus leaving a motorway exit fell off a bridge and onto a railway track. Four passengers died. An investigation team from the Safety Investigation Authority, Finland, has largely determined the course of events. The investigation continues and will be completed in early 2019.
The driver became aware of the situation too late – a collision could no longer be avoided
The bus was approaching a motorway ramp at about 90km/h when the speed limit was 100km/h. On the ramp, the bus slowed down only slightly. When the driver was able to see the intersection, he noticed that his speed was too high and that there were cars in the lane turning to the left. According to his account, upon becoming aware of the situation the driver tried to brake, but without succeeding. To avoid collisions, the driver turned sharply to the right at the intersection.
The vehicle's speed at the intersection was so great that it was unable to make the turn. The bus swerved over the central reservation and crashed into cars. The bus then crashed diagonally through the bridge's railing and, after flying through the air, landed on a railway cutting. As the bus came to a halt, the bus's rear section dropped onto the track, resting on its left side. The front remained propped against the upper section of the cutting. The speed at the intersection was at least 50km/h, but the swerve marks, collision marks and length of the vehicle's leap through the air indicate that it was much higher. Nothing had probably slowed the bus aside from the uphill slope of the ramp, skidding and the collisions. Precise information on the speed cannot be obtained due to the imprecision of the tachograph.
The accident had several causes
The ramp was very short and had no signs indicating that drivers should lower their speed other than an urban area sign. In addition, the view of the intersection was hampered by trees between the motorway and ramp. The driver’s alertness was lowered by his state of health and, given this, the heavy nature of his duties. He had little experience of the vehicle involved in the accident and poor familiarity with its controls, such as the service brakes and cruise control. Together, these factors played a role in the vehicle's entry into the hazardous situation and the failure of the related actions. However, there are no indications that the cruise control played any role in the accident. The driver did not use the service brakes during the journey, which are a generally used way of reducing the speed of heavy vehicles.
The fall onto the railway cutting made the accident serious
The people in the front section of the bus survived the accident with varying degrees of injury. The most serious injuries and deaths were caused by the sideways collision due to the rear of the vehicle striking the railway. The sideways movement of the vehicle caused passengers to strike the side wall of the vehicle’s passenger section. The worst consequences would have been avoided if the vehicle had not fallen into the cutting.
The Safety Investigation Authority will continue its work by investigating issues such as fitness to drive, fatigue management, vehicle training and other safety management practices and requirements in the coach sector, as well as the basic principles of traffic arrangements. The rescue and emergency medical care actions taken will also be investigated. The investigation report and safety recommendations will be completed at the beginning of next year, 2019.
Further information: Kai Valonen, Chief Safety Investigator, tel. +358 (0)295 150 707, Veli-Pekka Nurmi, Executive Director, +358 (0)295 150 701.