AP Photo/Brian Witte
BALTIMORE (AP) — The driver of the school bus involved in a deadly crash this week in Baltimore was taking medication for seizures when he had an accident two years ago, his wife told investigators at the time, according to records obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
Glenn Chappell’s wife spoke with officers after her husband apparently lost consciousness, crashing into trees and shrubbery but emerging unscathed from the single-car accident in Howard County on Feb. 9, 2014.
Chappell, 67, died Tuesday morning along with five other people when the school bus he was driving rear-ended a car before colliding with an oncoming Maryland Transit Administration bus. Eleven people were injured. A probe into the cause of the crash is ongoing, and a federal investigator said Friday that no mechanical defects have been found in the two buses.
The National Transportation Safety Board has completed the mechanical inspections of both vehicles and found no deficiencies, investigator Jennifer Morrison said at a news conference.
The NTSB and Baltimore police have also obtained four surveillance videos that show the school bus on its approach to the crash site, but none shows the collision, Morrison said.
It appears from the surveillance video that the bus, which was not carrying children, was traveling faster than the posted speed limit, but its exact rate is still being determined, police spokesman T.J. Smith said.
Authorities have also said they are looking into Chappell’s health records but have declined to answer specific questions about whether he suffered from any medical conditions.
According to the 2014 accident report, Chappell was driving in Ellicott City about 9 a.m. when he apparently “suffered a medical condition” and lost consciousness and/or control, crossing oncoming traffic and eventually striking a guard rail.
The car then continued on a sidewalk before coming to a rest after striking some trees and shrubbery. Chappell was taken to a hospital with no apparent physical injuries.
Another aspect of the investigation concerns Chappell’s medical records and driver’s license.
On Thursday, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration announced that Chappell did not have a valid commercial driver’s license because his medical examiner’s certificate had expired. Agency spokesman Chuck Brown provided copies of two warning letters the MVA sent Chappell.
But Chappell’s daughter and an attorney for his employer, AAAfordable Transportation, disputed the agency’s claim. AAAfordable had a valid certificate that was set to expire in June 2017, attorney George Bogris said by telephone Friday. The company has turned its certificate over to investigators, Bogris said.
Smith, the police spokesman, said authorities had received “conflicting information” regarding the certification and “what information was available and on file.” He said police could not definitively say whether Chappell’s license was valid.
Board of Education spokesman Bill Reinhard said the local school district would have been responsible for making sure Chappell met state requirements, even though he worked for a contractor.
Baltimore City Schools is cooperating with the investigation and its operations staff is reviewing school bus transportation services “to ensure that our protocols reflect best practices and are followed with fidelity,” CEO Sonja Brookins Santelises said in a statement.
Chappell’s son Moses spoke Thursday in Baltimore to an Associated Press reporter. He said family members, like investigators, are awaiting his father’s autopsy results, which could show if he suffered a medical emergency.
Moses Chappell said his father maintained a healthy lifestyle – he never saw him drink alcohol – and that “day to day,” his dad didn’t seem to have any health issues.
Asked about his father’s health and whether he had seizures, Moses Chappell said, “I can’t really comment to that.”
Helen Morgan, the mother of Maryland Transit Administration bus driver Ebonee Baker, who died in the crash, questioned why someone who may have suffered from seizures would be allowed to drive a school bus.
“What is he doing behind the wheel? I don’t know why this happened, but I know that’s not supposed to be the way it’s supposed to be. That’s not right.” Morgan said in an interview this week at her home, sobbing at the thought of it. “It’s not right.”
The NTSB expects to release a preliminary report within two to three weeks, and a determination of probable cause will take even more time, according to Morrison, the lead investigator.
Associated Press contributors include Kasey Jones in Baltimore, Sarah Brumfield in Washington and David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Maryland. Rankin reported from Richmond, Virginia.
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