Mechanical problems not behind Ride On crash

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Photo - A Montgomery Transit Ride on Bus crashed through the front of a house in Silver Spring.
A Montgomery Transit Ride on Bus crashed through the front of a house in Silver Spring.
Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

Montgomery County's inspection of a Ride On bus that demolished the front of a Silver Spring house two weeks ago has turned up no mechanical problems, leaving driver error as the most likely cause, county spokesman Patrick Lacefield said.

Driver Emlyn Harewood said the brakes on the 2011 Gillig Hybrid bus failed. When the 64-year-old stepped on the brakes, nothing happened, he told The Washington Examiner. "I shouted out to everybody, 'No brakes! No brakes!' "

However, the possibility of a brake failure has been ruled out, Lacefield said. The bus last had preventative maintenance on July 31.

(See photos from the scene of the crash)

Though no other mechanical problems were discovered, the county will wait to rule them out until after interviewing Harewood next week. Harewood, who is on paid leave from the county, didn't show up to his originally scheduled meeting about the crash, according to Lacefield.

"If he has something to offer as a mitigating condition, we want to hear it," Lacefield said.

The county also has ruled out the weather as a factor, because it wasn't raining, as well as the impact of another driver on the road, because the quiet neighborhood street had no other traffic at the time, Lacefield said. The on-board video of the moments before the crash showed no hints of passengers distracting the driver.

Harewood directed questions about contributing factors other than the brakes to his attorney, Perry Choren. Choren, Harewood's workers' compensation attorney, declined to answer questions, citing "attorney-client confidentiality."

Gino Renne, president of Montgomery County's Municipal and County Government Employees Organization, said he finds it unlikely that Harewood, who said he has been driving Ride On buses for 18 years, would have shouted that the brakes were failing if they weren't.

"He's got a good work history. He's a good driver. He's a good employee," Renne said. "That's why I'm a little suspect about the county's claim that there wasn't any equipment malfunction."

In addition to destroying the front of a house near the corner of Stateside Drive and Avenel Road, the accident damaged a taxi parked in the driveway and the Ride On bus, which had fewer than 36,000 miles on it. The bus will cost the county at least $50,000, Lacefield said, though he didn't know how much the property damage would cost. The county is self-insured.

Though Harewood and four passengers were hospitalized, no one was seriously injured.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner