City schools end con­tract with bus firm af­ter crash

Six died and 11 were in­jured in ac­ci­dent this month

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Tim Pru­dente

The city school sys­tem has ter­mi­nated its con­tract with the West Bal­ti­more com­pany that op­er­ated a bus in­volved in the crash this month that killed six peo­ple and in­jured 11 others.

Schools spokes­woman Edie House Foster said the district ended its con­tract with AAA­ford­able Trans­porta­tion Inc. on Mon­day. The com­pany has drawn scru­tiny since one of its buses ca­reened into on­com­ing traf­fic on Frederick Av­enue early Nov. 1.

“Based on the to­tal­ity of the cir­cum­stances, City Schools felt it most ap­pro­pri­ate to ter­mi­nate the re­la­tion­ship,” House Foster said in a state­ment.

AAA­ford­able owner Mark Wil­liams de­clined to com­ment Mon­day af­ter­noon.

AAA­ford­able was one of seven pri­vate com­pa­nies con­tracted to trans­port stu­dents in Bal­ti­more. The six others con­tinue to work with the school sys­tem, House Foster said.

Po­lice are ex­plor­ing whether the school bus driver, 67-year-old Glenn Chap­pell, suf­fered a med­i­cal emer­gency while driv­ing on Frederick Av­enue in Irv­ing­ton. His bus rear-ended a Ford Mus­tang, veered into on­com­ing traf­fic, then crashed into a

Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion bus.

Chap­pell, the MTA driver and four pas­sen­gers on the MTA bus were killed.

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

Still, City Coun­cil­woman Mary Pat Clarke said, the dis­crep­ancy raised too many unan­swered ques­tions about the com­pany and its driver. She had called pub­licly for the school sys­tem to end the con­tract.

“I don’t know all the fac­tors that went into their de­ci­sion, but I think it’s the right thing to do,” she said, “just for the fam­i­lies to feel se­cure for their chil­dren to be safely trans­ported.”

The re­main­ing bus com­pa­nies will take over the routes of AAA­ford­able, House Foster said. Clarke said she hopes any new driv­ers will be thor­oughly vet­ted.

AAA­ford­able was con­tracted to trans­port stu­dents in five buses. The con­tract signed in early 2013 was to last un­til June 2018, or when the bud­geted $4.3 mil­lion was spent.

AAA­ford­able had a clean fed­eral safety record the past two years. One of its buses was in a crash four years ago.

With 17 buses and driv­ers, the com­pany logged 153,150 miles in 2015, mostly within Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Mo­tor Car­rier Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion records.

Fed­eral records show AAA­ford­able has op­er­ated its fleet the past two years with­out a crash with in­jury or re­quir­ing a bus to be towed.

In 2012, one com­pany bus car­ry­ing the Na­tional Acad­emy Foun­da­tion’s high school girls soccer team to an af­ter­noon game at Polytech­nic In­sti­tute crashed into a mini­van. At least 13 peo­ple were hurt.

The school bus in this month’s crash passed an in­spec­tion in April, ac­cord­ing to school records. Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors said they in­spected the bus af­ter the wreck and found no me­chan­i­cal prob­lems.

The sever­ity of the crash brought the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors to Bal­ti­more.

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 hit the MTA bus. They have said the school bus was speed­ing.

Chap­pell was driv­ing a Buick LeSabre in El­li­cott City in 2014 when he crossed a me­dian into on­com­ing traf­fic and hit a guardrail, another me­dian and trees, ac­cord­ing to a Howard County po­lice ac­ci­dent re­port. His wife told po­lice at the time that he was tak­ing med­i­ca­tions for seizures.

Af­ter the deadly wreck this month, wit­nesses de­scribed man­gled buses, trapped pas­sen­gers and cries for help.

Killed in the crash were Chap­pell; 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; Ter­rance Casey, 52, a for­mer volunteer min­is­ter and a hus­band and fa­ther; and Pat­tie Lynn Martinez, 46, who was home­less but had worked in con­struc­tion.

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