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Trucking company involved in deadly Ohio bus crash has history of alleged violations

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — A trucking company involved in the Ohio chain-reaction collision that killed six people was previously cited for issues like defective brakes, according to documents obtained by ABC News.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol says that the Nov. 14 crash on I-70 in Licking County was caused when a Mid State Systems truck operated by Jacob McDonald rear-ended a car that, along with vehicles in front, had been “slowing for traffic.” This caused the truck and the car to each collide with a coach bus, which then crashed into a different car and a truck operated by G.A. Wintzer & Son Co.

The bus was transporting Tuscarawas Valley High School students, three of whom died.

The documents ABC News obtained under the Ohio Public Records Act show that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has previously raised a number of red flags involving Mid State Systems’ trucks, including ones operated by McDonald. The commission regulates commercial transportation companies in the state.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families [affected] by this tragic accident,” Lee Zazworsky of Mid State Systems told ABC News by email. “Since this matter is still under investigation, we will reserve further comment at this time.”

The documents also show that the commission sent a letter to G.A. Wintzer & Son Co. alleging that on Nov. 14, the day of the crash, their truck had several violations, including “brake connections with leaks or constrictions,” “failing to secure load” and “inadequate brakes for safe stopping – brake lining condition.”

G.A. Wintzer & Son Co. president Sean Wintzer told ABC News via email that “we have received the letter from the PUCO [Public Utilities Commission of Ohio] and we disagree with their findings as we believe the accident caused the conditions noted in the letter.”

More than three years before the collision, the commission accused Mid State Systems in a 2020 letter of multiple violations while McDonald was driving a truck, including brake connections with leaks or restrictions and brake system pressure loss, leading to a $150 fine.

In 2021, following another inspection while McDonald was driving a truck, the commission wrote in a letter to Mid State Systems that several similar violations were being alleged, including inoperative/defective brakes, excessive weight and “an automatic airbrake adjustment system that fails to compensate for wear,” prompting a $100 fine.

“The number of defective brakes is equal to or greater than 20 percent of the service brakes on the vehicle or combination,” the letters from 2020 and 2021 noted.

In 2022, the commission alleged that McDonald drove beyond the 14-hour duty period, but did not assess a fine.

Less than three weeks before the collision on I-70, the commission reached a settlement agreement with Mid State Systems for $805 after “brake hose or tubing chafing and/or kinking” and placard/marking issues were alleged involving a Mid State Systems vehicle operated by a different driver.

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating this month’s crash. State law enforcement officials say that as of now, they have not filed any charges in connection with the incident.

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