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School bus in Indiana crash passed inspections, records show

Bus driver is long-time district employee, superintendent says
Posted at 5:06 PM, Mar 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-21 12:36:53-04

AURORA, Ind. — The school bus involved in Wednesday’s crash that injured 19 students passed twice-a year inspections for the past 5 1/2 years, according to state records.

The WCPO I-Team dug through state records to learn more about the bus’ safety record. Records show the bus, a 2002 Thomas Built, is registered to the school district, but a state police news release reported that the bus is privately owned and contracted by the school district.

Eric Lows, superintendent of South Dearborn Community Schools, vouched for the district bus fleet.

“If you look at the safety ratings of our school buses, you’ll find that they’re very durable pieces of equipment,” Lows said. “I think today is a further illustration of that with the condition of the vehicle that was there onsite.”

READ the latest update about the crash.

The bus was headed eastbound on State Route 350 just before 8 a.m. when it rearended a stationary Rumpke garbage truck near Mount Sinai Road, Indiana State Police Sgt. Stephen Wheeles said.

The bus has been in operation in the school district since November 2013, according to a state police report. The bus has had all of its inspections (Indiana law requires buses older than 12 years to be inspected twice a year), and the bus has had no major issues over the past 5 1/2 years, reports say.

It’s unclear where the bus was before South Dearborn schools started using it in 2013.

The most recent inspection took place in October 2018.

“It’s done on a regular basis,” said Sgt. Wheeles. “If they don’t pass, they’ll get pulled out of service and school corporation won’t use those school buses anymore.”

As for the drivers in Wednesday's crash, both submitted to blood draws and alcohol and drugs are not suspected to be factors at this time, Wheeles said. The bus driver sustained serious injuries and is hospitalized, according to Wheeles.

Driver background checks, required by the state, are handled by the district, Superintendent Lows said.

The bus driver is a long-time district employee, Lows said.

A woman whose two nephews were injured vouched for the driver, saying: "He’s drove my whole life. Everybody knows (him). He’s real cautious. He’s real slow. You wave at him, he waves back.”

The bus did not have seat belts – they are not required in Indiana – so WCPO asked a state Department of Education spokesperson about that.

Some 21 of 300 Indiana school districts have lap bar and shoulder belts, according to spokesperson Adam Baker.