Tishomingo crash: Only two girls were wearing seatbelts, witnesses say car rolled through stop sign
The four-seater Chevrolet car carrying six teenage girls that collided with a semi-truck in Tishomingo on Tuesday, March 22, made a "rolling stop" before being struck, as per authorities. As a result of the crash, all six teenage girls, who used to study at Tishomingo High School, were killed.
The girls were identified as Gracie Machado, Brooklyn Triplett, Austin Holt, Madison Robertson, Addison Gratz, and Memory Wilson. The truck driver has been identified as 51-year-old Valendon Burton from Burneyville, Oklahoma. As per officials, out of the six girls, only the two teenage girls riding in the front seat were wearing seatbelts. Burton, who was wearing a seatbelt at the time, remained injured in the crash. No charges have yet been filed against the semi-truck driver.
The National Transportation Safety Board's statement released on Thursday read, "At about 12:19 pm CDT on March 22, 2022, in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, a 1994 Peterbilt truck-tractor in combination with a dump semi-trailer loaded with gravel was traveling southbound on United States Highway 377 approaching the intersection of Oklahoma State Highway 22. At the same time, a 2015 Chevrolet Spark passenger vehicle, occupied by a teenage driver and five teenage passengers, was traveling eastbound on SH-22 approaching US-377."
"At this location, the intersection is controlled by a stop sign regulating traffic on SH-22. The posted speed limit for US-377 is 50 mph. Witnesses reported the Chevy made a 'rolling stop' at the stop sign and entered onto US-377 where the combination vehicle struck the front-left of the Chevy, pushing it off the roadway to the southwest. As a result of the crash, all six occupants in the Chevy were killed; the truck driver was uninjured," it continued.
"The team is expected to conclude their on-scene work by Monday, March 28. A preliminary report providing an overview of the factual information developed at this early point in the investigation is expected within 30 days of the accident. The investigation is expected to be completed, which will include the probable cause of the crash as well as any contributing factors, in 12 to 24 months," the release concluded.
Bobby Waitman, Tishomingo Public School's superintendent, released a statement on Facebook, "We feel it is imperative that we inform you that our District has suffered a great loss today involving high school students. Our hearts are broken, and we are grieving with our students and staff. We have counselors available to students presently. We also have space prepared at Tishomingo High School with counselors available through the evening. Schools will be in session tomorrow at each campus, but our focus will be the emotional well-being of our students."
The six students were reportedly on lunch break from their high school in Tishomingo. "Just adding a single passenger under age 21 increases the risk of crashing by 44% when the driver is a teen. One of the main concerns and risks of having multiple teenagers in a car is the distractions that come with that. If one of the passengers is over 35 (the risk) goes down by 62%. That implies teens can drive safely when there’s an adult in the car. The unbelted people put everyone at risk. In a crash, the unbuckled people fly around all over the place," William Van Tassel, Manager of Driver Training Programs at the American Automobile Association, told AP News.