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Suit claims trucker in crash wore noise-canceling headphones

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Pennsylvania Turnpike Crash (copy)

Five people were killed Jan. 5, 2020, in a crash onthe Pennsylvania Turnpike involving a passenger bus, two tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles.

HARRISBURG — Victims of a crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that killed five people and hurt nearly all the dozens of passengers on a bus nearly two years ago claim in a lawsuit that one of the drivers was wearing noise-canceling headphones.

The wrongful death and negligence lawsuit filed last week in Philadelphia claims FedEx driver Brandon Stowers' use of the headphones prevented him from hearing warnings that he was about to crash into the scene of the bus wreck near Mount Pleasant. The complaint includes a photo of the driver in the cab wearing headphones.

The FedEx truck plowed into a bus headed from the New York area to Cincinnati around 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2020. The lawsuit says one of the plaintiffs, a child identified by his initials, was decapitated in the crash.

The plaintiffs are 18 victims or their next of kin. The 95-page complaint names as defendants Z&D Tour Inc., the bus operator based in Rockaway, New Jersey; Ohio Coach Inc.; Sioux Trucking Inc. and FedEx Ground Package System Inc.

FedEx issued a statement Tuesday saying safety is its top priority and expressing “our thoughts and condolences” to the people involved.

“The allegations against FedEx Ground and Mr. Stowers are without merit and we intend to defend our position should this matter proceed,” the statement read.

A message seeking comment was left for Sioux Trucking. Z&D Tour attorney Dru Carey declined comment. A call to Ohio Coach's online number was directed to another number that did not allow messages.

The lawsuit says the victims required a range of medical care for such injuries as a broken neck, traumatic brain injury and multiple broken ribs. It seeks damages and asks FedEx to institute a policy to prevent its drivers from wearing headphones.

The National Transportation Safety Board has said light snow was falling when the driver lost control about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. Two passengers, the bus driver and two occupants in a truck were killed.

The preliminary NTSB report said the bus veered toward the median, swept back across all travel lanes, hit an embankment, rolled onto its side and stopped in the travel lanes. It was then struck by a FedEx tractor-trailer that was itself hit by a UPS truck. The driver and co-driver of the UPS truck were killed.

At least one other lawsuit has been filed over the crash.

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