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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 3, 2005

Bus, truck safety records checked

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

The state Transportation Department is investigating the safety records of the drivers and vehicles involved in Wednesday's crash of a school bus and dump truck, a spokesman said yesterday.

Investigators want to know if the drivers and vehicles, including the 19,000-pound truck and the school bus carrying 41 students, have any history of safety violations and were current on safety inspections and other paperwork, DOT spokesman Scott Ishikawa said.

The state's Motor Vehicle Safety Office will examine records of both companies involved in the crash and turn any information found over to the Honolulu Police Department, he said.

Results of the investigation were not available late yesterday afternoon, Ishikawa said.

However, the president of Ground Transport Inc. said Thursday that the bus driver involved in the collision had a commercial driver's license for four and a half years and has an "S" endorsement on the license, signifying that she has had the additional training that school bus drivers must complete by 2006.

Louis Gomes declined to identify the 54-year-old bus driver, who was released from the hospital several hours after the bus she was driving collided with a dump truck at the corner of Ninth and Wai'alae avenues in Kaimuki. Twelve of the 41 children on board and the truck driver were slightly injured. Gomes said the bus that was involved last passed a safety inspection in July.

"We've had a number of fender-benders over the years," Gomes said of Ground Transport. "But certainly nothing of the magnitude of the Kaimuki accident until now."

Ground Transport Inc. has been in operation for 15 years, Gomes said, and provides bus service to about 6,000 regular school students and approximately 700 special school students each day.

Leslie Griffin, wife of John Griffin Sr., owner of Pacific Isles Equipment Rental Inc., which owns the dump truck, declined to comment, saying the company had been advised not to discuss the incident.

Some of the students, as well as the dump truck driver, said the bus driver, who was traveling makai on Ninth Avenue, ran a red light before colliding with the dump truck, which was heading east on Wai'alae Avenue.

"All I know at this point is what has been reported by the media," Gomes said. "We'll know more after we talk to the (bus) driver and the police release a copy of the accident report to us in a day or two."

Drivers who work for Ground Transport undergo pre-employment drug testing, are tested randomly after they are hired and are tested following accidents such as the one Wednesday, Gomes said.

Mike Leidemann contributed to this report.

Reach David Waite at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com.