Skip to comments.Bus Owner Charged In Explosion That Killed 23
Posted on 02/01/2006 8:18:40 PM PST by flutters
MCALLEN, Texas -- A tour company has been charged with conspiracy and other crimes in the deaths of 23 nursing home residents whose bus caught fire and exploded as they were trying to flee Hurricane Rita.
In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, Global Limo, Inc., and owner James H. Maples are accused of conspiring to falsify driver time records and failing to inspect the company's bus fleet to make sure the buses were safe.
Maples, 65, was arrested Wednesday at his McAllen home. He was scheduled to appear before a U.S. magistrate Wednesday afternoon.
The bus caught fire Sept. 23 on a freeway near Dallas as it was evacuating residents of Brighton Gardens nursing home from Houston as Hurricane Rita churned in the Gulf of Mexico. The driver and some passengers escaped, but others were trapped when oxygen tanks on board fed the flames and exploded.
Those killed accounted for nearly a quarter of the roughly 100 people whose deaths were attributed to the hurricane.
"Rules governing the safe carriage of passengers are not made to be broken," U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said in a statement. "They are made to be followed, and followed scrupulously, by transportation companies."
Federal regulators ordered the company to discontinue its bus operations following the fire, saying the conditions of its vehicles and drivers "are likely to result in serious injury or death."
In November, a grand jury declined to indict the driver.
Maples and Global Limo are charged in the indictment, handed up Monday, with three counts each: conspiring to falsify documents to allow drivers to go long stretches without appropriate rest, failing to inspect and maintain company buses and failing to require drivers to complete vehicle inspection reports.
The conspiracy charge, the most serious, carries a five-year maximum prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. If the company is convicted on that charge, it could be ordered to pay a $500,000 fine.
The owner had a bus which was unsafe. And in a moment of greed...put that unsafe bus back into operation. Since the accident happened in Texas...I'd be guessing that this is a 10-day court case at best...and the owner won't get off (unlike California).
Wasn't the driver an unlicensed illegal alien?
I'll have to google to refresh my memory on the details of this story. I'll do that tomorrow. But I don't see how Mayor Nagin can get off scott free for letting buses sit while private owners step up to the plate. Then the private owners get charged for a crime.
I agree wholeheartedly. That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw this article.
Traffic was not moving for hours at a time. Extended idling on hot pavement is about the harshest operating condition outside of a track environment ordinary vehicles ever see, and could be expected to result in significant numbers of breakdowns including fires - and it did.
Ordinary fire plus immobile seniors plus highly flammable oxygen bottles means extraordinary tragedy.
It's possible the vehicle was an ill maintained inferno waiting to happen. But it seems much more likely that this is just looking for a scapegoat after the fact.
If someone must be blamed, I would start with the state officials who sat and watched the highways bog down to a complete stop without changing the traffic patterns. Remember 3 lanes of bumper to bumper parking all the way to the horizon on the right, and 3 empty lanes on the left. Why?
I too recall the driver to be an Illegal Alien ... just driving a bus no legal American Citizen was willing to drive (for 1/2 the living wage rate)