The investigation into the Jan. 17 car accident that killed four Yale students is not expected to be concluded until early 2004, said David S. Rayburn, the lead investigator for the National Transportation and Safety Board.

Rayburn said the final report — known as a “board report” — will provide an analysis of the investigation, the cause of the crash, recommendations for improving highway safety, a summation of important facts, and other conclusions regarding the accident. The board that issues the report consists of the Chairman of NTSB, the vice chair, and three other members that meet once a month to deliberate on such reports.

Rayburn said he expects the release of the report in February or March of next year.

The accident, in which a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe crashed into a jackknifed tractor-trailer on I-95, claimed the lives of four of the nine Yale students in the vehicle. Kyle Burnat ’05, Andrew Dwyer ’05 and Sean Fenton ’04 were pronounced dead at the scene, and Nicholas Grass ’05 died Jan. 18 at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport.

The nine passengers of the SUV were either pledges or members of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. They were among 23 members returning from a fraternity event that is held every year during rush, DKE president Nicholas Sinatra ’03 said in a written statement.

Before the board report is released, Rayburn said investigators will submit a “factual report” to the NTSB by June 12 of this year, outlining the relevant details of the investigation and accident. The factual report will contain no conclusions or analysis.

It will be submitted to the public a few months after a preliminary version of the factual report is submitted to relevant parties to the investigation — such as Yale University and the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, he said. These parties are allowed to review the factual report and make recommendations to the NTSB regarding the accuracy of the facts surrounding the accident.

Rayburn said he hopes the NTSB will be able to answer such questions as why the truck driver lost control and why the median barrier did not prevent him from crossing into the other lane.

Regarding the length of time the board will take to issue their final report, Rayburn said the NTSB does not rush investigations into such complicated cases and that the board is facing a backlog of cases. He said, however, that he is certain the families of the students involved in the crash would rather have a thorough rather than a hurried investigation.

“Fourteen to fifteen months is standard,” Rayburn said. “I’m sure they [the families] want us to do a good job, and not be in a hurry. They’ll [also] have closure before then [when the report is issued].”

One of the nine passengers of the SUV, Zachery Bradley ’05, echoed the thoughts of Rayburn concerning the length of the investigation.

“I think the investigators need to take their time and thoroughly investigate it [the accident],” Bradley said. “[But] There’s really nothing they can do to bring my friends back.”

Bradley is currently at home in Arkansas and plans to return to Yale in January 2004.