Sexual assaults alleged on transit buses for disabled
Saturday, April 10, 2010
A contract driver for Metro's transit service for the elderly and disabled was arrested Thursday and charged with sexually assaulting a female bus customer in January in Prince George's County, about two months after another driver was fired after a similar offense was reported, Metro Transit Police said Friday.
Jeff Delinski, deputy chief of the transit police, said he considered the cases a troubling aberration but all MetroAccess drivers are being retrained because of the incidents.
"To have two of these in the same month is really unusual," Delinski said. "The vast majority of our operators are good people who work very hard."
Jose Del Castillo, 55, of Gaithersburg picked up the woman about 3 p.m. Jan. 28 in Temple Hills to take her to Bowie. On the way, he pulled over and fondled and groped her, according to Delinski. He was suspended without pay Jan. 30.
Del Castillo was arrested Thursday near Gaithersburg and transferred to Prince George's for arraignment. He was charged with third-degree sexual assault and second-degree assault.
The victim, an adult, was able to push Del Castillo away during the assault and the next day reported it to a co-worker, who informed Metro police, Delinski said.
Another MetroAccess contract driver, Harry Delain, 31, of Southeast Washington, was suspended without pay on Jan. 3 after a report that he had sexually assaulted a customer that day aboard a bus, according to Delinski. He was fired Feb. 4.
The U.S. attorney's office declined to prosecute that case because of conflicts in the client's statements.
Both contract drivers were hired after passing a background check, said Nikki Frenney, vice president of public affairs for MV Transportation, which oversees the 1,500 drivers in the MetroAccess system for Metro. MetroAccess provides about 7,700 trips a day for people with disabilities who are unable to use regular bus and rail service.
"These are isolated incidents, but as a precaution, all our drivers will be retrained on sensitivity and appropriate behavior," Frenney said.
MV Transportation is responsible for training all MetroAccess drivers, about 60 percent of whom work directly for the company and the rest for subcontractors.
MetroAccess drivers undergo thorough background checks and 110 hours of classroom training, including eight hours of "sensitivity" training, Delinski said.
"We always look to improve, but I feel what we have in place works," he said. "These two cases are anomalies."
Del Castillo, an employee of Challenger Transportation, which is a subcontractor of MV Transportation, had worked as a MetroAccess driver since May 2009.
A background check found no previous felony convictions or misdemeanors of a violent or sexual nature.