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State had revoked commercial driving privileges of Baltimore school bus driver in fatal crash

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.

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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 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.

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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, said Bill Reinhard, a state education spokesman.

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 driving-related 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.

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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."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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