Baltimore school bus contractor involved in crash had clean record in recent years, but crash in 2012

The Baltimore company that owns the school bus in Tuesday's crash also owned one in a 2012 wreck.

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 it 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.

tprudente@baltsun.com

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