James H. Maples, 67, president and director of Global Limo Inc., is accused of conspiring to falsify driver time records and failing to conduct safety inspections on buses after one of his buses exploded and killed 23 nursing home residents, the Associated Press
The accident occurred on Sept. 23, 2005, as 37 nursing home residents were attempting to flee Houston ahead of Hurricane Rita on one of Maples’ buses.
The accident is believed to have been caused by an overheated bearing in the rear wheel well, probably the result of poor maintenance. The tire ignited and the fire engulfed the bus, then probably caused oxygen canisters to explode, investigators said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kinchen said Maples had failed to maintain his vehicles and required his drivers to work excessively long shifts and then falsify logs to conceal the long hours.
If convicted of the conspiracy charge, Maples faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Other charges allege that Maples and his company knowingly failed to inspect and maintain the buses.
Maples’ attorney argued the drivers were being manipulated by the federal government and that they were either confused by new safety laws or made mistakes when logging their hours.
In May, victims of the accident received $11 million in compensation from Global and BusBank, the travel broker that hired the bus.
In light of the accident, the U.S. Department of Transportation has instituted new guidelines for the positioning of medical oxygen tanks in vehicles, according to the Associated Press