So what the company did was sell its trailers to a new company: G.T. USA LLC, Grochal said.

Trucking operations continued under the new corporation. Lawyers involved in the case say it's a common — and completely legal — practice.

G.T. USA LLC was created in 2000 and terminated last week, according to state records. Gunthers Transport LLC was incorporated in 2005.

That was the company cited by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last week. Regulators found that the company was "seriously deficient" in four of seven safety categories: safe driving, prevention of driver fatigue, driver fitness and vehicle maintenance.

An agency spokeswoman said an imminent-hazard order is "one of the strongest measures" it can take unilaterally to shut down an unsafe company. During the last federal budget year, the agency issued only 10 such orders nationwide, she said.

The federal order prohibits the company from resuming operations until it has met a series of stringent conditions, including coming into compliance with federal trucking regulations and identifying the reasons for its past violations. The agency said the company must prepare a plan to retrain its drivers and "take immediate, aggressive and progressive steps to control drivers' hours of service."

The agency — which has seen companies it has ordered off the road resume operations under other names, is also seeking to close that escape route in this case. The order said Gunther's Transport LLC cannot avoid the order by continuing operations under another name, including those of current affiliates, and forbids it to sell or lease its equipment without agency permission.

A spokeswoman said the agency has asked Congress "to close loopholes that allow companies that have been shut down to recreate themselves under a new name." Early next year, the agency plans to seek the ability "to shut down any commercial truck company operating with a pattern of evading or masking federal safety violations."

The lasting effects

After the 1994 Capital Beltway crash, Gunther's Leasing Transport's $1 million insurance policy didn't go very far. Lawyers took their fees and the rest was divided six ways, says Kreiner.

Buber was moved from hospital to rehabilitation facility. Aides feed him by tube daily, except for one meal, which is pureed and fed by spoon. The rest of his days are spent watching country music videos and staring at the photos of a life he no longer has.

Kreiner hopes that the federal regulators' action in shutting down Gunthers Transport LLC, and in taking steps to prevent owner Mark David Gunther from starting over, will break the cycle of safety problems.

Gunther "doesn't deserve a business. He don't deserve nothing," she said Friday.

Brian Buber sits in his wheelchair, listening to his sister. He's asked if he's angered by what has happened.

He opens his mouth wide in a silent howl, shakes his clenched fists in the air and then pounds them against his temples.

Baltimore Sun reporter Steve Kilar contributed to this article.

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