The fatal school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tenn., that left six children dead and dozens of others injured Monday afternoon wasn’t the first deadly wreck for the bus’s corporate owner, federal safety data show.
Illinois-based Durham School Services owns and operates more than 13,000 buses and employs an equivalent number of drivers, including Johnthony Walker, 24, the driver who lost control of his bus Monday while it was carrying 35 elementary school children.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data shows that Durham has been involved in 346 crashes in the last 24 months. Of those crashes, 142 resulted in injuries and three deaths.
These numbers weren’t enough to keep Durham from maintaining a “satisfactory” safety rating with the FMCSA, but the company history of driver problems is substantially worse than similar transportation companies. According to federal safety data, 93 percent of Durham’s peers had “better on-road performance” in the last 24 months.
The Chattanooga crash remains under investigation; federal authorities have not yet determined what caused Mr. Walker’s bus to veer off the road, flip, and strike a tree.
Mr. Walker has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide for the Chattanooga crash. According to the Tennessee Department of Safety, in 2014 Mr. Walker was involved in another crash and had his license suspended.
Since 2014, authorities have cited eight Durham drivers for violations. In all but one of those cases, the drivers were cited for not holding the appropriate license to operate a school bus.
Durham School Services’ website states that it employees must meet “stringent selection criteria, which includes an extensive interview process, background checks and drug testing.”