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Indianapolis Church Bus Crash - Update on the Investigation

Steve Wagner

As local, state and federal investigators try to find the cause of the Indianapolis bus accident that killed three people on Saturday and injured several more, many new angles to the incident have cropped up.

Some of the aspects being investigated include the following issues:

Technical Failure
State police investigators have called in Marion County Fatal Alcohol Crash Team to probe the crash. Going by the bus driver’s statement that he noticed brake problems just before the accident, Indiana State Police will be inspecting the mechanical elements of the bus such as brake pads, brake drums and brake rods. ISP will also be looking for evidence of a massive brake failure for which the pavement of North Keystone Avenue, where the crash took place, will be examined for skid marks. According to investigators, it will take a week or more to find the cause of the bus accident and who or what is responsible.

Driver Carelessness
Investigators are checking the background and work record of Dennis Maurer, the 68-year-old driver of the bus. A member of the Colonial Hills Baptist Church, Maurer acquired his commercial driver’s license in the year 2010. A study of his driving record has revealed only minor violations—two seat belt violations in the last two years, and two speeding tickets issued in Marion County and Michigan in 1981 and 1991, respectively.

Bus Inspection Records and Safety Rules

  • The ISP is reviewing safety records for the bus. However, Indiana laws for church buses makes this a tricky job. Private and non-business passenger motor carriers, like the ones owned by churches, do not have very stringent inspection rules, unlike in the case of school buses and commercial motor coaches.
  • Church buses, like the one involved in the accident, must ideally be inspected at least once a year. However, churches are exempted from having to maintain inspection records, which makes it difficult to prove that inspections were conducted on such motor coaches.
  • Although the bus, which was built in 1986, is required to go through annual inspection under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, being owned and operated by a church as a Non-Business Private Motor Coach Carrier of Passengers (PMCP) allows the church to use their own mechanic or any non-government agency to conduct inspection on the bus under federal guidelines. A non-business PMCP, like this bus, does not even have to present the inspection documents if stopped on the road. However, conducting periodic inspections are a must.
  • According to the documents procured by I-Team 8, the state police inspectors last looked at the bus in 2010 and no violations were reported. Investigators are still talking to church officials about any additional inspection records that they may have kept voluntarily.

The issue that is conspicuous here is how and why non-business PMCP are given an exemption of this nature. Unintentionally, some federal rules have given certain institutions the liberty to neglect matters concerning the safety of Indiana residents.

A bus accident is not just physically agonizing but also leads to mental trauma. You will need the assistance of a professional personal injury attorney to secure compensation for medical expenses to treat your physical and psychological wounds. Contact our Indianapolis motor vehicle accident lawyersfor a free consultation.

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