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NTSB: Driver in fatal Baltimore school bus crash was speeding

The near head-on collision involving a Baltimore school bus, a Ford Mustang and an MTA transit bus made national news. According to sources, the school bus was traveling on its regular route in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Nov. 1, when it suddenly smashed into the back of the Mustang and then careened across into the oncoming traffic lane, where it hit a commuter bus nearly head-on. The two bus drivers and four passengers were killed. Eleven more were injured.

Any fatal accident is a tragedy, but this one was particularly troubling. First, it's frightening to think of a school bus being in an accident at all, let alone one in which the school bus driver appears to be at fault. Second, there was evidence from the beginning that the driver may have had a medical issue that should have kept him off the road.

A teacher's aide was on the bus that morning -- the sole occupant of the bus besides the driver, at the time. When the bus driver struck the Mustang, she asked the driver what had happened but he didn't respond before striking the MTA commuter bus.

A week before, paramedics had been called to the offices of AAAfordable LLC because the bus driver appeared to be having a seizure. AAAfordable LLC provides school busing services for the Baltimore City Public Schools.

After the crash, investigators discovered that the bus driver had a current medical certificate, as required for professional drivers, but he had not filed with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. Moreover, he had been warned about two months before the accident that his medical certificate was not on file, so he was ineligible to drive.

This week, the National Transportation Safety Board issued its preliminary report. It noted the driver's history of seizures and that he had other crashes on his driving record. It also said he had been driving more than twice the speed limit just before the crash -- 57 mph in a 30 mph zone.

The investigation into this tragedy is ongoing, but determining exactly what caused the collision will be crucial, if the injured passengers and the families of those killed are to seek appropriate compensation. AAAfordable LLC may have been negligent in allowing a driver on the road without the required medical documentation on file, or it may have a history of negligence in hiring or operations. The possibility that other parties' negligence contributed to the crash also cannot be ruled out.

When people are injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident, they have the right to get answers about what happened. They also have the right to seek full, fair compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering, and/or other losses like lost companionship and guidance. The first step in any personal injury or wrongful death case is the investigation, and the NTSB's report may be only the beginning of that process.

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