Baltimore School Bus Driver Found at Fault in 3 Prior Traffic Cases

By BRIAN WITTE | November 4, 2016

The Baltimore school bus driver who died along with five others in a collision with a commuter bus was found at fault in three traffic-related cases in the last eight years, according to civil and criminal court records and an attorney interviewed by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Glenn R. Chappell, 67, lost a civil case over hitting a parked car in Baltimore in 2008. Nationwide Insurance said in its complaint that Chappell’s vehicle “veered from the roadway” and struck the car.

The complaint alleged he was negligent for “failing to pay full time and attention to the roadway, operating at excessive speed, failing to maintain control of his vehicle, failing to avoid colliding with other vehicles.”

The court ordered Chappell to pay about $2,400, which he did, according to Nationwide’s lawyer, Michael David Johnson.

Chappell was convicted in 2014 of failing to show a registration card during a traffic stop, and convicted again last November of driving a vehicle with suspended registration. Neither of these offenses involved a school bus.

The records also show that Chappell was convicted of violating three protective orders issued in 2012. He spent much of the fall of 2012 in jail, awaiting judgment in those cases. In December 2012, he was sentenced to seven days for a second-degree assault conviction.

Chappell’s employer, bus contractor AA Affordable Transportation, didn’t immediately respond to calls and emails about Chappell’s history.

Baltimore City Public Schools spokeswoman Edie House declined to comment on the court records, saying school officials needed to review them first.

None of the 18 elementary school students served by Chappell’s bus was aboard when it hit a car and roadside pillar before crashing into an oncoming Maryland Transit Administration bus early Tuesday, killing both drivers and four mass transit riders.

On Wednesday, Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith released the names of five of the deceased, including Chappell and MTA bus driver Ebonee Baker, 33.

Federal records show that AA Affordable had no violations or other crashes reported during the two years ending this September. In 2012, an AA Affordable school bus was involved in a crash that injured at least 13 people, including students, when it collided with a minivan. Smith said the company was not at fault in that case, because another vehicle ran a red light.

The company’s five-year contract with the school district ends in June 2018, according to online public records.

Investigators hope Chappell’s autopsy will reveal whether he suffered a medical emergency, which Smith described Tuesday as a working theory, since there were no skid marks indicating hard braking.

“We don’t know if the driver of the yellow bus suffered any type of medical condition,” Smith said at a Wednesday news conference. “I do not have any information on a previous medical history to discuss.”

Police released Wednesday 911 calls about the crash. A man who gave his name as Cameron described the scene, saying: “The school bus was going 90. The school bus tore off the street and kept on moving.”

The only school bus passenger, an aide, survived with minor injuries, and police planned to interview her, Smith said.

“We’ve interviewed a number of people, but those are still ongoing,” Smith said.

Investigators recovered recording equipment from the MTA bus, but the condition of the equipment after the crash was unclear, Smith said.

Police also identified three of the four deceased MTA bus passengers: Cherry Denise Yarborough, 51; Terance Lee Casey, 52; and Gerald Holloway, 51, all of Baltimore. Smith said police haven’t yet reached relatives of the other deceased passenger, a 46-year-old woman.

He said three of the 10 people injured remain hospitalized at the University of Maryland Medical Center, in fair, serious and critical condition.

Michelle Kennedy, a 32-year-old house keeper at Spring Grove Medical Center who was injured in the crash, urged anyone with knowledge of the accident to reach out to her attorney, Billy Murphy, who obtained a $6.4 million settlement for the family of Freddie Gray last year. Kennedy described losing consciousness after the accident.

“I woke up with glass in my mouth,” Kennedy said, recalling the moments before she was carried out by emergency personnel.

Baker’s sister Deonne Perry said in a telephone interview that Baker, a married mother of four, worked an overnight shift. She said she last spoke with her sister by phone around 3:45 a.m. Tuesday, about three hours before the crash.

“She loved her husband, her kids, and everyone else’s kids,” Perry said.

Baker was friendly, funny and “always wanted to shine,” said the Rev. Donald Wright of the Greater Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church, where she was a member.

When Minnie Yarborough didn’t hear from her daughter, Cherry, on Tuesday morning “like a mother knows,” she could tell something was wrong. She saw reports of a bus wreck along her daughter’s daily route to work and began calling hospitals. Later, she learned that her 51-year-old daughter, who loved sports, movies and puzzles was among the passengers killed.

“She was a loving daughter,” Minnie Yarborough said by telephone. “She was kind, considerate and she truly loved her job.”

Yarborough was riding the bus to her office at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, Behavioral Health Administration Executive Director Dr. Barbara Bazron said in a statement. Yarborough, a secretary who always had a “ready smile and a kind word for everyone” had worked in various roles in the department for 30 years, she said.

Steve Gondol, executive director for Live Baltimore, which promotes city living, says Yarborough had been a fixture at its Buying in Baltimore events since 2008, greeting people at the registration table. Gondol says Yarborough “saw life as an education.” He says she enjoyed living in the city and wanted to make sure others benefited too.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation. Lead investigator Jennifer Morrison said her team will likely remain in Baltimore through the week, gathering facts to determine the cause of the crash and make safety recommendations.

The public transit riders were on the No. 10 route from Dundalk, a largely blue-collar community southeast of Baltimore, to Catonsville, a western suburb.

Bus fatalities are rare, accounting for less than 1 percent of all highway fatalities in 2013, according to a chart on the NTSB website.

(Associated Press writers Kasey Jones in Baltimore; Sarah Brumfield in Washington; Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Virginia; David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Maryland, contributed to this story.)

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