NTSB: 10-year-old tire failed in fatal crash

A left rear tire failure on the 2004 Kia, above, is cited in a National Transportation and Safety Board report about the Feb. 15 crash that killed four people on U.S. 90.
(Banner-Tribune Photo)

By PRESTON GILL pgill@daily-review.com

The original 10-year-old left rear tire of the 2004 Kia experienced tread separation, rapid air loss and has been cited as a factor in the Feb. 15 fatal crash, a National Transportation and Safety Board report stated Wednesday.
The Kia was driven by LaDonna Cheatham, 36, of Patterson, who was killed in the accident along with her children, Destiny Cheatham, 6, and Marcus Cheatham, 16, and her nephew, DeWayne Escort, 14. All of them were unrestrained. Another son, Mark Cheatham, 17, who was restrained, was taken by helicopter to a hospital.
Peter C. Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation and Safety Board, emphasized that the NTSB is not saying the tire failure was the direct or sole cause of the accident.
“We are very careful when assigning a reason or a cause to an accident,” Knudson said. “The initial findings report that the failure of the tire led to a loss of control of the vehicle, it does not assign a reason or cause of the accident.”
Knudson was unable to provide how many miles the vehicle had traveled on the tires.
The preliminary report from the NTSB states that the Kia was traveling westbound on U.S. 90 near Centerville in the right lane at a witness-estimated speed of 70 miles per hour.
After LaDonna Cheatham lost control of the Kia, it veered into the left westbound lane, rotating in a counterclockwise direction, and departed the roadway into the 64-foot-wide median, the report states. The Kia continued through the median — now rotating in the opposite direction — crossed the left lane of eastbound traffic, and collided with a 66-passenger school bus traveling in the right traffic lane, the report states. The bus was occupied by a 40-year-old driver and 34 members of the Lafayette High School baseball team.
The engine of the Kia, along with other components from the Kia, came to a rest on the frontage road. The school bus continued in a southeasterly direction, departing the roadway to the right, where it crossed the grass right-of-way, the frontage road, and a drainage ditch, before coming to a rest in a sugar cane field, the report said.
Of the 35 school bus occupants, 30 passengers received injuries, ranging from minor to serious. The bus driver sustained minor injuries, according to the report. There were no passenger seatbelts on the bus; only the driver was wearing a seatbelt, the report states.
The preliminary report also describes the condition of the roadway where the crash occurred.
That section of U.S. 90 was reconstructed in 1980 and is comprised of two 12-foot-wide lanes in each direction with a 10-foot-wide shoulder adjacent to each right lane, the report states. A 4-foot-wide shoulder separates the left lanes from the center median. The roadway is straight with no barrier with a posted speed limit of 70 mph. At the time of the collision, the weather was clear and the road conditions were dry, according to the report.
A team of six people came to Louisiana for the investigation that intermittently shut down U.S. 90 for a few hours on Feb. 18 to gather information for the report, Knudson said.
Federal investigators are continuing to investigate several other safety issues including occupant protection and what affect a median barrier would have had in the collision, Knudson said.
The investigation will take at least several more months and could yield a stand-alone report or a composite report of other accidents that cover multiple issues, he said
The Michelin Cross Terrain tire on the Kia was not the subject of any recalls, the news release said. But it will undergo a laboratory analysis to identify the factors involved in the tread separations along with another tire from a fatal Florida accident, the release said.

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