Investigation into why wheels came off bus, hit man on bike

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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) -- A state school bus inspector is trying to determine whether mechanical failure, lax maintenance, or something else is to blame for a bizarre collision Thursday morning that sent a bicyclist to the hospital with serious injuries.

The bus involved, hauls special needs students to four Knox County elementary and high schools.

Fortunately, the driver was the only person on board, having just completed her morning runs.

Blaine Ward, who is the bus contractor, said he has seen a lot happen mechanically in his 25 years in the business, but he has no clue how the right rear wheels came off special needs bus 586.

“You don't have lug nuts come off anything you drive,” he said.

It happened Thursday morning, just after driver Patricia Lindsay put the small bus into gear to cross the railroad tracks on Neyland Drive.

“As the bus was beginning to pull away from the tracks, the wheels came off the bus and struck the bicyclist,” said Darrell DeBusk from the Knoxville Police Department.

The wheels hit Pat Armstrong on his blind side, causing non-life threatening injuries that sent him first to Fort Sanders and then to UT Medical Center.

Bus 586 is ten years old, and passed state inspection before the school year started last fall.

Its last major maintenance job came over Christmas Break when it received a new set of brakes.

“They go around and look at it every morning, because they know it can happen years down the road,” said Ward. “They go around and see if any lug nuts are loose on them.”

Ward said everything looked fine before Ms. Lindsay took the bus out on Thursday morning.

Knox County says she has a good record, and according to Ward, she would be back hauling children by the afternoon.

“Most of the time when you see it, it occurs on the interstate at high speed, which can be very deadly,” said DeBusk.

Pat Armstrong remains listed in critical condition at UT Medical, but because of medical privacy laws, little has been released about the extent of his injuries.

The state inspector hasn't filed her report, but a department spokesman said it will likely focus on whether the lug nuts were torqued properly.

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