Bus company at center of wreck had 142 injury crashes, 3 deaths in 2 years

The private company that owned the bus involved in Monday's fatal wreck in Chattanooga that killed five elementary school students has had 142 crashes with injuries and three fatalities in the last 24 months, according to federal records.

Durham School Services, based in Warrenville, Ill., has more than 13,000 vehicles and 13,000 drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. They're a large company, and they have an overall satisfactory safety rating from the administration, but they still have more problems when it comes to driver fitness than their peers, the records show.

The administration's records on Durham state "93% of motor carriers in the same safety event group have better on-road performance than this motor carrier."

A safety event group includes other similar bus and truck companies. In the last 24 months, Durham has been involved in 346 crashes, 201 of which were towaway wrecks. That data was last updated in late October.

The driver in the Chattanooga case, 24-year-old Johnthony Walker, has been charged with five counts of vehicular homicide. In 2014, he had his license suspended following a crash, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety.

There have been eight driver violations against Durham since December 2014, according to the administration. Although none of those drivers were in Tennessee, seven of the incidents involved drivers who didn't have the appropriate license needed to operate the vehicles they were driving.

In Hamilton County, there were no bus crash fatalities from the 2011-2012 school year through the 2014-2015 school year, according to state records. Statewide, there were between zero and two fatalities each year.

Tuesday morning Durham School Services CEO David A. Duke issued a statement calling the crash a tragedy.

"Our entire team at Durham School Services is devastated by the accident yesterday that tragically claimed the lives of Chattanooga students. We are working with Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County School District to investigate. We also have additional team members arriving in Chattanooga today to provide support. We have offered to provide counseling to students and families of Hamilton County, as well as our employees. We will provide all further updates in coordination with the Chattanooga Police Department and the district," Duke said.

The Durham website, which also includes Duke's statement on the homepage, says employees must meet "stringent selection criteria, which includes an extensive interview process, background checks and drug testing."

This isn't the first time Durham has had issues in Tennessee.

A 2014 investigation by WMC Action News 5 in Memphis found that Durham drivers had wrecked 11 buses in less than two months. In three of those cases, the drivers were at fault, and one driver didn't have a license or school bus credential.

The investigation also found that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hadn't conducted a "full comprehensive review" of the company since 2007. At the time, the company had operated in Shelby County for three years. The investigation states during that time Durham buses were involved in 251 accidents in Shelby County alone.


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