Med­i­cal is­sue raised in crash

School bus driver had taken med­i­ca­tion for seizures in the past

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Tim Pru­dente and Ian Dun­can

As fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors ruled out me­chan­i­cal de­fects Fri­day as the cause of a school bus crash that killed six adults in South­west Bal­ti­more this week, it came to light that the driver had been on med­i­ca­tion for seizures in the past.

Po­lice have said they were ex­plor­ing whether the driver, 67-year-old Glenn Chap­pell, suf­fered a med­i­cal emer­gency when he was driv­ing Tues­day morn­ing on Frederick Av­enue and rear-ended a Ford Mus­tang be­fore veer­ing into on­com­ing traf­fic and crash­ing into a Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion bus.

Chap­pell, the MTA driver and four pas­sen­gers on the MTA bus died in the crash. Eleven peo­ple were in­jured.

“I’m not at lib­erty to dis­cuss any of his po­ten­tial med­i­cal his­tory, but that cer­tainly will be part of our in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” po­lice spokesman T.J. Smith said.

Chap­pell’s driv­ing and med­i­cal his­tory have been un­der scru­tiny. While school district of­fi­cials say he re­cently passed a phys­i­cal, Chap­pell failed to sub­mit doc­u­men­ta­tion to the Mary­land Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Ad­min­is­tra­tion show­ing he was in good health. As a re­sult, he lost his com­mer­cial driv­ing priv­i­leges.

In 2014 in El­li­cott City, Chap­pell was driv­ing a Buick LeSabre and crossed a me­dian into on­com­ing traf­fic, hit­ting a guardrail, an­other me­dian and trees, ac­cord­ing to a Howard County po­lice ac­ci­dent re­port. His wife told po­lice at the time Pat­tie Lynn Martinez is iden­ti­fied as sixth vic­tim of Tues­day’s crash. NEWS PG 11

that he was tak­ing med­i­ca­tions for seizures.

Po­lice said Chap­pell was “be­lieved to have suf­fered a med­i­cal con­di­tion” and could not ex­plain to of­fi­cers what hap­pened.

The sever­ity of this week’s crash in Irv­ing­ton has brought fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors to Bal­ti­more. The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board is in­ves­ti­gat­ing, along with Bal­ti­more po­lice.

Po­lice have said they found no in­di­ca­tion Chap­pell ap­plied the school bus brakes be­fore the col­li­sion, and they have no rea­son to sus­pect that Chap­pell in­ten­tion­ally rammed the MTA bus. The school bus, po­lice said, was speed­ing.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said they in­tend to ask a school bus aide — who was the only other per­son on the school bus — what hap­pened just be­fore the crash. Po­lice said they are try­ing to sched­ule a time to talk with the aide’s Glenn Chap­pell lawyer.

The school bus, owned by AAA­ford­able Trans­porta­tion Inc., passed an in­spec­tion in April, ac­cord­ing to Bal­ti­more school district of­fi­cials. Chap­pell worked for AAA­ford­able, a con­trac­tor with the district. On Fri­day, fed­eral of­fi­cials said they had ex­am­ined both buses.

“We have com­pleted the me­chan­i­cal in­spec­tions of both buses in­volved in the crash, and no me­chan­i­cal de­fects or de­fi­cien­cies were noted,” said Jen­nifer Mor­ri­son, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor with the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board.

Po­lice also iden­ti­fied Fri­day the sixth per­son killed in the crash as Pat­tie Lynn Martinez, 46. She was home­less but was known to live last in Fells Point, po­lice said.

In ad­di­tion, po­lice an­nounced that an11th per­son — a 28-year-old woman — was in­jured in the crash, and that she re­mains hos­pi­tal­ized. Po­lice are not nam­ing vic­tims who sur­vived.

Smith said that in the “chaos” of the ac­ci­dent scene, po­lice weren’t aware that Crash scene in­ves­ti­ga­tors take mea­sure­ments with a laser scan­ner Fri­day on Frederick Av­enue, the site of Tues­day’s fa­tal crash. she had been trans­ported to the hos­pi­tal.

The state Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­voked Chap­pell’s com­mer­cial driv­ing priv­i­leges two months ago be­cause he failed to pro­vide the agency with the nec­es­sary health cer­tifi­cate, state of­fi­cials said.

Bal­ti­more schools, how­ever, showed The Bal­ti­more Sun a med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s cer­tifi­cate that de­clared Chap­pell was a qual­i­fied to drive. The cer­tifi­cate was dated June 20, 2016, and was valid for one year. An at­tor­ney for AAA­ford­able, Ge­orge Bo­gris, said the com­pany also had a cur­rent cer­tifi­cate for Chap­pell.

Bal­ti­more City Coun­cil­woman Mary Pat Clarke called Fri­day on the city school sys­tem to end its six-year con­tract with AAA­ford­able.

“It’s the only thing to re­store con­fi­dence for a lot of fam­i­lies,” she said.

Clarke ques­tioned whether Chap­pell should have been driv­ing. “I don’t know how he got through the screen­ing,” she said.

Mor­ri­son said it was the first crash in­volv­ing a tran­sit bus that the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board has in­ves­ti­gated since 1997. Agents closed one lane of Frederick Av­enue on Fri­day to mea­sure the road and de­ter­mine the pre­cise speed of the school bus.

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors and Bal­ti­more po­lice have ob­tained four sur­veil­lance videos that show the school bus on its ap­proach to the crash site, Mor­ri­son said, but none shows the col­li­sion.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors also are re­cov­er­ing data from con­trol mod­ules in the en­gine and air bags.

Such mod­ules can cap­ture sev­eral sec­onds’ worth of data, such as en­gine rev­o­lu­tions, speed, how much throt­tle was ap­plied, whether brakes were en­gaged, any change in ve­loc­ity, and if a seat belt was fas­tened.

A pre­lim­i­nary re­port from the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board is ex­pected within two to three weeks. The find­ings could help au­thor­i­ties im­prove trans­porta­tion safety in Bal­ti­more and be­yond, Mor­ri­son said.

Smith, the po­lice spokesman, said au­thor­i­ties have re­ceived con­flict­ing in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing Chap­pell’s health cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and whether he was legally per­mit­ted to drive a school bus.

Chap­pell has had other le­gal prob­lems stem­ming from his driv­ing in the past.

Chap­pell was sued in Bal­ti­more 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; terms were not dis­closed in court papers.

He lost a civil case over hit­ting a parked car in Bal­ti­more in 2008. Na­tion­wide In­surance said in its com­plaint that Chap­pell’s ve­hi­cle “veered from the road­way” and struck the car. The court or­dered Chap­pell to pay about $2,400.

He pleaded guilty in 2014 to fail­ing to show a reg­is­tra­tion card on de­mand and in 2015 to driv­ing a ve­hi­cle with a sus­pended reg­is­tra­tion.

Howard County sued Chap­pell over $150 in un­paid traf­fic tick­ets from 2014, court records show, but of­fi­cials were un­able to find him to serve le­gal papers. The law­suit stemmed from two in­ci­dents in which traf­fic cam­eras caught a car reg­is­tered to Chap­pell run­ning red lights in Columbia. The pic­tures do not show whether Chap­pell was driv­ing.

Chap­pell’s son Moses de­scribed his father as a cau­tious, ex­pe­ri­enced driver. He said his father drove a city taxi, a trac­tor­trailer and school bus over decades. The long­time driver earned bonuses at work for his safe record, Moses Chap­pell said.

Be­fore the crash, about 6:30 a.m. Tues­day, Glenn Chap­pell and the aide were trav­el­ing east on Frederick Av­enue to pick up their first stu­dent. The school bus hit a Ford Mus­tang and con­tin­ued an­other block be­fore crash­ing into the MTA bus.

Wit­nesses de­scribed man­gled buses, trapped pas­sen­gers and cries for help. One MTA pas­sen­ger said she 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.

JERRY JACK­SON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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