School bus con­trac­tor had clean record ex­cept for crash in 2012

13 were in­jured 4 years ago in ac­ci­dent that in­volved AAA­ford­able Trans­porta­tion

Baltimore Sun - - DEADLY BUS CRASH - By Tim Pru­dente tpru­dente@balt­

While the West Bal­ti­more con­trac­tor that owned the school bus in­volved in Tues­day’s deadly col­li­sion with a Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion bus had a clean fed­eral safety record the past two years, one of its buses was in­volved in a crash four years ago that in­jured at least 13 peo­ple.

The bus owned by AAA­ford­able Trans­porta­tion LLC crashed into the MTA bus in the 3800 block of Fred­er­ick Ave. on Tues­day morn­ing, killing six peo­ple, in­clud­ing both driv­ers, and in­jur­ing 10 oth­ers.

The com­pany is one of seven bus com­pa­nies con­tracted by Bal­ti­more City schools to trans­port stu­dents. The school sys­tem has con­tracted with AAA­ford­able since 2010, school of­fi­cials said.

Nei­ther com­pany of­fi­cials nor po­lice named the school bus driver killed in Tues­day’s crash. But AAA­ford­able owner Mark Wil­liams said the driver had a good record. Oth­er­wise, Wil­liams said, he wouldn’t be driv­ing for AAA­ford­able.

Wil­liams de­clined to an­swer fur­ther ques­tions, say­ing the com­pany and its driv­ers were griev­ing.

With 17 buses and driv­ers, the com­pany logged 153,150 miles in 2015, mostly mak­ing trips within Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion records. Two com­pany buses and two driv­ers have been spot-checked in the past two years. Those driv­ers and buses all met safety stan­dards.

The fed­eral records show AAA­ford­able has op­er­ated its fleet the past two years with­out be­ing in­volved in a crash with in­jury or re­quir­ing a bus to be towed. The ad­min­is­tra­tion only makes two years of records avail­able on­line for trav­el­ers vet­ting bus com­pa­nies. Prior year’s safety records were not avail­able Tues­day.

But in 2012, one of the com­pany’s buses crashed into a mini­van while car­ry­ing the Na­tional Academy Foun­da­tion’s high school girls soc­cer team to an af­ter­noon game at Polytech­nic In­sti­tute, in­jur­ing at least 13 peo­ple.

On Tues­day, the school bus driver was on his way to pick up the first of about 18 stu­dents be­fore 7 a.m when he rear-ended a Ford Mus­tang, struck a con­crete pil­lar, then con­tin­ued an­other block be­fore smash­ing through the driver’s side front of the MTA bus, po­lice said.

There were no stu­dents on the bus, which was out to pick up chil­dren for Dal­las F. Ni­cholas Sr. Ele­men­tary School. AAA­ford­able also trans­ports stu­dents to Roots and Branches char­ter school.

Five peo­ple on the MTA bus died in the crash, of­fi­cials said. Their iden­ti­ties have not been re­leased. Eight MTA bus pas­sen­gers, the driver of the Mus­tang and an aide on the school bus were in­jured, po­lice said. Their in­juries ranged from mi­nor to crit­i­cal.

Po­lice found no in­di­ca­tion that the brakes on the school bus were ap­plied be­fore the col­li­sion. And of­fi­cers planned to ask the bus aide what hap­pened just be­fore the wreck.

Bus driv­ers con­tracted by city schools must meet health stan­dards. The driver in Tues­day’s crash passed an an­nual phys­i­cal in June, school of­fi­cials said.

Other bus com­pa­nies con­tracted by city schools in­clude City­wide Trans­porta­tion, Al­len­der Group Inc., Durham School Ser­vices, First Stu­dent Inc., Bar­ber Trans­porta­tion Inc. and Re­li­able Trans­porta­tion LLC.

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