Crash driver lacked per­mit

Right to drive school bus was re­voked for lack of proof of health

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Scott Dance, Liz Bowie, Ian Duncan and Tim Pru­dente

The driver of a school bus that ca­reened into an on­com­ing bus Tues­day caus­ing a deadly crash in South­west Baltimore was not legally per­mit­ted to be driv­ing a school bus, state of­fi­cials said Thurs­day.

The Mary­land Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Ad­min­is­tra­tion had re­voked Glenn Chap­pell’s com­mer­cial driv­ing priv­i­leges two months ago be­cause he failed to pro­vide the agency with a cer­tifi­cate show­ing he was in good health.

The rev­e­la­tion raised ques­tions about how well the Baltimore school sys­tem mon­i­tors the stand­ing of driv­ers in its fleet of con­tract buses. City schools of­fi­cials did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment Thurs­day.

An at­tor­ney for the bus com­pany, AAA­ford­able Trans­porta­tion Inc., said Chap­pell passed a phys­i­cal exam five months ago.

“Whether or not he failed to pro­duce a Glenn Chap­pell

“My fa­ther has been a driver all his life. My fa­ther has lit­er­ally re­ceived bonuses for his safe driv­ing.”

copy to the MVA, or he pro­duced a copy and they didn’t ap­pro­pri­ately note it on his record, or they mis­placed it, I have no idea,” said Ge­orge Bo­gris, the at­tor­ney.

Chap­pell, 67, was killed when his school bus smashed into a Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion bus.

The MTA driver and four adult pas­sen­gers on that bus also were killed. City and fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­tinue to search for an­swers. Baltimore po­lice said they’re try­ing to de­ter­mine whether Chap­pell suf­fered some med­i­cal emer­gency be­fore the vi­o­lent col­li­sion.

His fam­ily has been left to grieve and won­der what caused his school bus to veer off course.

“There had to be some­thing. What? I’m not clear,” said son Moses Chap­pell.

The fam­ily is wait­ing for au­topsy re­sults from the state med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice.

“He took care of him­self. I never even saw my fa­ther drink a beer,” Moses Chap­pell said. He said he did not know if his fa­ther suf­fered any health prob­lems. “He never had a heart at­tack. ... I was just won­der­ing if they’re go­ing to check his heart.”

AAA­ford­able Trans­porta­tion, a small bus com­pany in South­west Baltimore, is one of seven com­pa­nies con­tracted by Baltimore schools to trans­port stu­dents. The com­pany of­fered con­do­lences to the vic­tims in a state­ment Thurs­day.

“We would ask that the in­ves­ti­ga­tors be per­mit­ted to com­plete their work in the ab­sence of spec­u­la­tive con­clu­sions about what hap­pened in the mo­ments lead­ing up to the ac­ci­dent or about the in­di­vid­u­als in­volved,” the com­pany said in the state­ment.

Owner Mark Wil­liams de­clined to say more.

“My lawyer is say­ing I’m not al­lowed to give any in­for­ma­tion,” he said.

Be­fore 7 a.m. Tues­day, Glenn Chap­pell and a bus aide were trav­el­ing east on Fred­er­ick Av­enue to pick up their first child in Irv­ing­ton.

The school bus rear-ended a Ford Mus­tang, hit a con­crete pil­lar and con­tin­ued an­other block be­fore crash­ing into the MTA bus.

Wit­nesses de­scribed man­gled buses, trapped pas­sen­gers and cries for help. Nine MTA pas­sen­gers and the bus aide were in­jured.

One woman woke to find glass in her mouth and two bod­ies ly­ing on her.

Those killed in­clude the MTA bus driver, Ebonee Baker, 33, a mother of four chil­dren and three stepchil­dren; Cherry Yar­bor­ough, 51, a sec­re­tary at the state Depart­ment of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene; Ger­ald Hol­loway, 51, a main­te­nance worker at For­est Haven Nurs­ing and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion; and Terrance Casey, 52, a for­mer vol­un­teer min­is­ter, hus­band and fa­ther. Po­lice have not pub­licly iden­ti­fied the last per­son killed, a 46-year-old woman.

“I feel for these other five fam­i­lies,” Moses Chap­pell said. “I’m thank­ful there were no chil­dren on that bus. I’m thank­ful the [bus] aide sur­vived.”

AAA­ford­able has been con­tracted by the city school sys­tem since 2010, school of­fi­cials said. And the con­tracted bus driv­ers must meet health stan­dards. Glenn Chap­pell passed an an­nual phys­i­cal in June, school of­fi­cials said.

But his com­mer­cial driv­ing priv­i­leges were re­voked by state au­thor­i­ties Sept. 1, ac­cord­ing to the MVA.

State of­fi­cials had warned Chap­pell twice, in July and again in Septem­ber, that he would lose his driv­ing priv­i­leges if he didn’t pro­vide a new med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate by the end of Au­gust.

MVA of­fi­cials said his prior med­i­cal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ex­pired Sept. 1 and he was not legally per­mit­ted to drive a school bus.

Lo­cal school sys­tems are re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing the driv­ing records of their bus driv­ers, even those work­ing for con­trac­tors, said Bill Rein­hard, spokesman for the state Board of Ed­u­ca­tion. They are re­quired to en­ter the names of banned driv­ers within 30 days into a data­base of dis­qual­i­fied school bus driv­ers main­tained by the Mary­land State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. The data­base al­lows schools to vet job can­di­dates.

The data­base is con­fi­den­tial and the depart­ment can’t say whether Chap­pell’s name was en­tered, Rein­hard said.

State reg­u­la­tions al­low for driv­ers’ med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tions to be re­viewed by the pub­lic. But school of­fi­cials did not com­ply with a re­quest Thurs­day for Chap­pell’s med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate.

Fed­eral law re­quires em­ploy­ers to hold med­i­cal cer­tifi­cates for all their driv­ers with com­mer­cial li­censes. The driv­ers must be ex­am­ined by a doc­tor listed in a na­tional registry to ob­tain a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion that lasts up to two years, said MVA spokesman Chuck Brown. The registry lists sev­eral hun­dred such doc­tors in the Baltimore area.

The MVA is “ac­tively as­sist­ing law en­force­ment’s bus crash in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” of­fi­cials said in a state­ment.

Po­lice found no in­di­ca­tion that the brakes on the school bus were ap­plied be­fore the col­li­sion. Of­fi­cers said they planned to ask the bus aide what hap­pened be­fore the wreck.

Glenn Chap­pell has faced other driv­in­gre­lated le­gal prob­lems.

Howard County was su­ing him over $150 in un­paid traf­fic tick­ets, court records show, but of­fi­cials had been un­able to lo­cate him to serve le­gal pa­pers. The suit stemmed from two in­ci­dents in 2014 when traf­fic cam­eras caught a car reg­is­tered to Chap­pell run­ning red lights in Columbia. Pic­tures from the cam­era in­cluded in court fil­ings do not show whether Chap­pell was driv­ing.

Chap­pell was sued for $30,000 over a 2007 crash in which an­other driver said Chap­pell tried to make a left-hand turn in front of him. The case was set­tled in 2010.

Moses Chap­pell de­scribed his fa­ther as a cau­tious, ex­pe­ri­enced driver. He drove a city taxi, a trac­tor-trailer and school bus over decades.

“My fa­ther has been a driver all his life,” Moses Chap­pell said. “My fa­ther has lit­er­ally re­ceived bonuses for his safe driv­ing.”

Glenn Chap­pell was raised in East Baltimore near Johns Hop­kins Hospi­tal. He once worked as a me­chanic re­build­ing trans­mis­sions and con­tin­ued to tinker with cars through­out his life.

“He was the mes­siah of cars,” his son said. “You could have a car that hadn’t run in years, and he could get it run­ning.”

Later, when Moses Chap­pell was grown and hav­ing car trou­bles, his fa­ther would dis­cour­age him from spend­ing money on a me­chanic.

“He would say, ‘Moses, this is just too much. You got to let me show you how to do it,’ ” he said.

The fa­ther and son had ex­pe­ri­enced some fric­tion in the past. Moses Chap­pell filed a pro­tec­tive or­der against his fa­ther four years ago, but he said they had since rec­on­ciled. Glenn Chap­pell doted on his 6-year-old grand­daugh­ter and 1-year-old grand­son, his son said.

“He was the rea­son I wanted to be a fa­ther. He was the rea­son I wanted to have a fam­ily,” Moses Chap­pell said. “My fam­ily is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a lot of pain. None of us ex­pected it.”

Moses Chap­pell

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