Report: Driver of fatal Baltimore school bus crash was speeding, had history of seizures

Preliminary NTSB report on Baltimore bus crash that killed 6 looks speed & seizures (NTSB)

BALTIMORE (WBFF) – A preliminary report on a fatal Baltimore bus crash that was released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday raises questions about the school bus driver’s speed and medical well-being.

The crash happened on November 1 around 6:30 a.m. on Frederick Ave. when a passenger school bus rear-ended and Mustang and then collided with an MTA bus. The crash killed six people, including both bus drivers, and wounded seven others. At the time of the crash, only the driver and a teacher’s aide were on the school bus, which was operated by AAAfordable LLC of Baltimore, but the incident sent chills to parents who were waiting for their children to be picked up that fateful morning.

While “all aspects of the crash” remain under investigation by the NTSB and Baltimore Police, officials are working to determine the probable cause, which they say will help them prevent crashes of a similar nature from happening.

The NTSB found that the school bus driver, 67-year-old Glen Chappell, passed the intersection of Frederick Ave. and Loudon St. heading east when it struck a 2012 Ford Mustang. The impact caused the Mustang to hit the curb and collide into a brick wall and metal fence. After hitting the Mustang, the school bus kept on heading eastbound on Frederick Ave., crossed the center turn lane and veered into the westbound lane, where it crashed into the left side of a 2005 New Flyer MTA bus.

The speed limit was 30 miles per hour. Officials reviewed surveillance footage captured in the area as well as the MTA’s onboard video system. The videos indicate that the school bus was going about 57 miles per hour before it hit the Mustang, which, in contrast, was traveling at about 16 miles per hour. After colliding with the Mustang, the school bus kept driving for over 800 feet and was traveling at about 45 miles per hour before it struck the MTA transit bus, which was going 39 miles per hour.

The NTSB furthers, “At this location Frederick Avenue was comprised of one travel lane in each direction for eastbound and westbound traffic, divided by a double yellow center line. As Frederick Avenue continued east, the double yellow center line transitioned into a center turn lane. Bike lanes were also present on either side of the travel lanes.”

Distracted driving and drowsiness have been ruled out as neither bus driver was using a cellphone at the time of the crash and both had been driving for less than three hours. There was nothing mechanically wrong with either bus -- inspections were completed and no mechanical defects were identified, the NTSB says.

This led the NTSB to delve deeper into Chappell's medical condition and whether his employer was aware of his medical history. According to the NTSB, Chappell had a history of hypertension, diabetes, and seizures.

In the past five years alone, he was in at least 12 crashes or incidents while driving either a school bus or personal vehicle. Many of the reports taken on these accidents described “seizure-like episodes.”

Just a week before the fatal crash, medics were called to AAAfordable because the driver was experiencing what some witnesses described as a seizure.

When interviewed, “The teacher aide recalled asking the school bus driver what had happened after the impact with the Ford Mustang, but the school bus driver did not respond. The school bus then struck the transit bus.”

Chappell did hold a current medical certificate but it wasn’t on file with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, the NTSB found. Two months prior, the MVA notified him that because his medical certificate wasn’t on file, he was no longer authorized to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Chappell had been driving school buses since 2008 and started working at AAAfordable in May 2014, but he had an employment hiatus there between April and August 2016; during this period, he worked for another bus company, the NTSB reports.

AAAfordable had contracts to run seven Baltimore City school bus routes and three Howard County route and also offered for-hire charter services. The Baltimore City school system terminated its contract with the company following the crash.

[App users: CLICK HERE to read the full report]

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