BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The National Transportation Safety Board has released their safety recommendation report following the deadly bus collision between a school bus and an MTA bus.
The NTSB said that the school system’s shortcomings put students and the public at risk.
The NTSB report highlighted deficiencies in how Baltimore Public schools monitor drivers and if they are even qualified to be behind the wheel.
The wreck happened back on November 1, 2016, when a school bus was traveling eastbound near the 3800 block of Frederick Ave. The school bus hit a Mustang, then struck a pillar at Loudon Park Cemetery. Finally, it hit the oncoming No. 10 MTA bus from Dundalk to Catonsville.
The school bus driver, Glenn R. Chappell, 67, and the MTA bus driver, Ebonee Danell Baker, 33, were killed in the crash, along with Cherry Denise Yarborough, 51, Terance Lee Casey, 52, Gerald Holloway, 51, and Pattie Lynn Martinez, 46.
The report released Tuesday by federal regulators reveals major problems with how Baltimore City Public Schools keep track of school bus drivers.
Reports show the school bus driver in this case, Glenn Chappell, had a history of troubling crashes and seizures — as a WJZ investigation previously found– and likely suffered a seizure that caused his bus to go out of control.
The NTSB documented Chappell’s involvement in 12 crashes in five years, including passing out and crashing with a student on board, and leaving the scene of an accident.
Chappell’s grandson previously told WJZ‘s Mike Hellgren he couldn’t “agree with him driving the bus,” and “maybe he should have considered another field.”
The NTSB found BCPS failed to take action after those previous crashes, and regulators discovered major problems supervising drivers and keeping records.
It also found issues with criminal background and drug testing of bus drivers, concluding “BCPS shortcomings in its oversight of school bus drivers place students, as well as the public, at risk.”
Federal regulators determined that if BCPS followed proper policies, Chappell would not have been behind the wheel the day of the crash that changed so many lives forever.
Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said there’s a challenge to get medical and driver records because of privacy concerns.
“It’s just a tragedy, but if something good can come out of it, it doesn’t save anybody’s life or take back injuries, but maybe it will save the next life,” Clarke said
Along with Baltimore City Public Schools, the NTSB said the State’s Department of Education also has a responsibility to monitor drivers.
Baltimore City Public Schools released the following statement:
“In the five months since November’s tragic accident, City Schools has established systematic and ongoing auditing of driver certification status, increased review of drivers following accidents regardless of cause or fault, enhanced programs for driver retraining and in-vehicle monitoring, and instituted new protocols to ensure timely sharing of information between contracted bus services and school district offices. The report received today from the National Transportation Safety Board will contribute to continuous improvement of our transportation services. City Schools is committed to taking recommended actions to ensure the safety of students, staff members, and the public.”
Congressman Elijah Cumming also released the following statement:
“I am deeply disturbed by NTSB’s findings that shoddy oversight and sloppy record keeping have put Baltimore students at risk. I urge BCPS and MSDE to implement NTSB’s safety recommendations immediately. MSDE should immediately commission an independent audit of BCPS’s transportation department and BCPS must implement each recommendation arising from that audit.
“This report makes clear that BCPS must also reform its record-keeping practices and it must review every current driver’s medical, criminal, and safety records to ensure that no unfit driver is driving a BCPS school bus.
“I also renew my request to Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio that the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure convene a hearing as soon as possible to examine school bus safety nationwide so we can determine if new federal laws or regulations are needed to protect students from unsafe school bus drivers and private bus companies.”