A West Texas prison bus probably hit a piece of displaced highway guardrail, then veered onto a median, down an embankment and struck a freight train, killing 10, according to a preliminary report released Thursday.
The report, prepared by the National Transportation Safety Board, contains “only factual information” gathered on the accident that killed two guards and eight inmates. The full investigation is expected to take 12 to 15 months to complete, the agency said.
The bus was traveling on Interstate 20 near Penwell, Texas, about 7:50 a.m. on Jan. 14, heading to a jail in El Paso. It had left three hours earlier from a jail in Abilene when it approached a highway overpass that crossed a set of rail tracks.
The previous day, the 225-foot metal beam leading to the overpass was damaged in a vehicle collision. Earlier the morning of Jan. 14, three additional crashes were attributed to the icy roads.
The report says that two of three other accidents could have displaced the guardrail and pushed it into the path of the bus.
The bus struck the guardrail, traveled left and over the median, eventually becoming airborne as it went over an embankment.
At the base of the embankment, the bus continued on to the track, hitting the freight train.
The train was en route from Los Angeles to Marion, Ark., traveling 45 mph, less than the speed limit for that stretch of track.
Follow @latimesmuskal for national news.