Soldier charged in bus accident Trooper cites driver over faulty brakes


An Aberdeen Proving Ground drill sergeant has been charged with driving a military bus with faulty brakes after a Saturday evening chain-reaction accident near Bel Air that sent 38 soldiers to area hospitals.

Sgt. 1st Class Arnold J. Benjamin was cited for allegedly failing to maintain his brakes properly and could be fined $510, said Trooper Thomas J. Bonin of the Bel Air state police barracks.

Barbara Filbert, a proving ground spokeswoman said the bus came from a military motor pool and that the sergeant was not responsible for its maintenance. The Army has begun an investigation, she said.

Trooper Bonin said he had no choice but to charge the driver.

"Even though the guy may not be responsible, he's the one who gets the ticket," Trooper Bonin said. "If the military tells the guy to drive a truck, he expects it to be in working condition. He doesn't expect to have three of four brakes not working at all."

Sergeant Benjamin, a drill instructor in the 143rd Ordnance Battalion's A Company, was driving the last bus in a three-bus convoy returning from a picnic at a park in Darlington, in northeastern Harford County.

Police said the accident occurred just after 6 p.m. Saturday when a car heading south on U.S. 1 stopped at Route 24 in the left-turn lane and the first two Army buses pulled up behind it.

The bus Sergeant Benjamin was driving could not stop and plowed into the second bus in line, which lurched forward into the first bus, which hit the car.

No one was seriously hurt, although 22 ambulances ferried injured soldiers to three area hospitals and a MedEvac helicopter flew one soldier to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Pvt. Christina J. Miller-Costad, 19, of Princeton, Ill., who is stationed at Aberdeen, was knocked unconscious by the crash and taken to shock trauma. She was released at 9:55 p.m. Saturday.

"Most were head injuries -- small cuts, bruises, bangs and complaints of whiplash," Trooper Bonin said.

The buses were carrying 102 soldiers in all, he said.

Alcohol was ruled out as a factor in the accident. Sergeant Benjamin passed a preliminary breath test taken at the scene.

The car had "very minimal damage to the rear bumper," Trooper Bonin said. The first bus in line was damaged slightly, but the other buses couldn't be driven from the scene.

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