The school bus driver involved in the crash that killed six people in Southwest Baltimore last month had a history of seizures and had been involved in at least 12 crashes in the past five years, according to an incident report released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The driver, Glenn Chappell, 67, experienced “seizure-like episodes” in a number of those cases, the NTSB said. He experienced a medical emergency that witnesses described as a seizure just one week before the crash, prompting paramedics to be called to his employer, AA Affordable Transportation. The company was contracted with the Baltimore City Public Schools system to transport students with special needs.
Chappell was among the six who died in the collision with an MTA bus in the morning of Nov. 1.
Executives at AA Affordable could not immediately be reached for comment. George Bogris, a lawyer representing the company, declined to comment on the report.
Baltimore City Public Schools officials said in a statement that the district “is continuing to work diligently to review and tighten processes and practices involving provision of contracted bus transportation for students.” They declined further comment, citing “impending litigation related to the accident.”
The district terminated its contract with AA Affordable three weeks after the crash.
Chappell had a history of hypertension, diabetes and seizures, the NTSB said. All three of those conditions could disqualify a person from operating a commercial motor vehicle under state and federal law. The laws require anyone driving a vehicle that carries 16 or more passengers hold a medical certificate proving they are in good health.
Doctors can grant waivers to issue certificates for drivers who have high blood pressure or diabetes if those conditions are under control, but they would not grant a person with a history of seizures a certificate unless they had not suffered one for a decade or more and did not take anti-seizure medication.
Chappell had received a medical certificate in June and provided it to Baltimore City school officials, but did not share it with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, prompting that agency to begin the process of downgrading his driver’s license from a commercial license to a regular license.
The school bus was going roughly 57 mph in a 30 mph speed limit zone when it hit a Ford Mustang near Frederick Road and Monastery Avenue, and it continued more than 800 feet down Frederick Avenue before striking the MTA transit bus, which was going about 39 mph, the NTSB said.
The crash killed both drivers and four passengers on the MTA bus. Another seven MTA bus passengers were seriously injured; two others, the teacher aide on the school bus, and the driver of the Ford Mustang had minor injuries. No students were on the school bus at the time of the crash.
The Ford Mustang had been going 16 mph when it was struck from behind.
The aide aboard the school bus told investigators that Chappell did not respond to the aide’s questions between hitting the Mustang and colliding with the MTA bus, the NTSB said.
Surveillance video aboard the transit bus captured the crash, the NTSB said.
Neither driver was using a cellphone when the crash happened just after 7 a.m., and both had been driving less than three hours beforehand, the NTSB said. Mechanical inspections showed neither bus had any mechanical defects.