Feds to convene and review school bus safety after deadly 2016 crashes, including one in Baltimore

Federal transportation authorities are to meet Tuesday in Washington, D.C. to discuss school bus safety after two deadly crashes — including one in Southwest Baltimore in November 2016 — killed a combined 12 people and injured 37 others.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to present likely causes of the crashes and issue recommendations to improve the safety of school buses. Afterward, officials will post online a summary of investigations into the crashes. Final reports are due out in the coming weeks.

Baltimore City schools administrators plan to attend.

The Baltimore crash happened Nov. 1, 2016 near Loudon Park Cemetery in Irvington. According to an initial NTSB report, the school bus was traveling about 57 miles per hour in a 30-mph zone when it crashed into a slow-moving Ford Mustang near Frederick and Monastery avenues. The school bus continued more than 800 feet down Frederick Avenue before striking the MTA bus, which was headed the other way about 39 mph.

The crash killed both bus drivers and four passengers on the MTA bus. Another 11 people were injured, including passengers on the MTA bus, a teacher aide on the school bus, and the driver of the Mustang. No students were on the school bus at the time of the crash.

In the days after the crash, investigators revealed the school bus driver, Glenn Chappell, 67, had a history of seizures. NTSB documents published this month found Chappell blacked out in 2013 while driving students from a field trip to the school. He was in at least a dozen crashes and medical emergencies during the five years preceding the deadly crash, according to the NTSB documents.

Chappell should have been disqualified from driving a school bus under a federally regulated driver vetting process, but he did not disclose it in routine medical examinations, officials have said. Police believe he was having a seizure when his bus crashed.

After the wreck, city schools officials pledged to strengthen their standards and ensure all drivers are medically fit. Chappell was a contract driver, and administrators ended their agreement with his bus company, AAAfordable Transportation LLC.

They also stepped up checks of driver certifications, reviews of drivers after accidents, training programs for drivers, and sharing records between contract bus companies and the district.

A lawsuit seeking more than $10 million has been filed on behalf of the victims.

Three weeks after the wreck, a school bus crashed on a winding road in Chattanooga, Tenn., killing six children. The bus driver, Johnthony Walker, was sentenced last month to four years in prison for criminally negligent homicide. During trial, prosecutors said he was driving too fast to navigate a bend in the road.

NTSB officials said they will address safety concerns similar to both crashes during the meeting Tuesday.

tprudente@baltsun.com

twitter.com/tim_prudente

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