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Driver of crashed UW marching-band bus cited for driving too fast for conditions, could face other citations

Nancy Aguilar, 36, of Sammamish was driving one of six charter buses carrying members of the University of Washington’s marching band to the Apple Cup. The bus slid off the road and toppled onto its side, injuring numerous people on board.

The driver of a charter bus carrying members of the University of Washington’s marching band that slid off eastbound Interstate 90 on Thanksgiving night and rolled onto its side has been cited for driving too fast for conditions and could face additional citations pending the outcome of a collision investigation, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The driver has been identified as Nancy Aguilar, 36, of Sammamish, said Trooper John Bryant. Aguilar, along with about 45 of the 56 people on board the coach, owned by MTR Western, was injured in the crash. Bryant didn’t know the extent of her injuries but said they did not appear serious.

 Three students were the last to be released Friday from hospitals in Seattle and Moses Lake after suffering nonlife-threatening injuries.

Aguilar was driving one of six buses taking marching band members and members of the UW spirit squads to the Apple Cup in Pullman when the bus went off the road and rolled just before 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

As a result of the crash, the marching band did not perform during the 111th Apple Cup, which the UW Huskies won 28-15 over the Washington State University Cougars on Friday, advancing to the conference championship against Utah.

Road conditions at the time of the crash were icy and slushy, said Bryant. The bus rolled on eastbound I-90 at milepost 146, about 3 miles west of the tiny town of George in Grant County, roughly halfway between Seattle and Pullman.

“We do know there were six buses within reasonable distance of each other and it was the only bus that went off the roadway. There were no other collisions in the area,” Bryant said in explaining why the driver was cited. The citation is a $136 ticket, plus a $25 collision fee, for a total of $161, he said.

Aguilar, who was properly endorsed to drive the charter bus, could face additional citations, Bryant said. Investigators are still working on a detailed collision report, which Bryant expected to be completed in a few weeks.

Federal regulations do not require seat belts on charter buses.

Chris Pendl, a spokesman for MTR Western, did not provide answers to a list of questions posed by email, including how long Aguilar has been employed by the company and whether she has been suspended from driving. He did provide a written statement from the company, saying MTR Western is working closely with the UW and the State Patrol and commending students who “have shown outstanding character and comradery under difficult circumstances.”

MTR Western staff members arrived at the crash scene Thursday evening and found hotel rooms for students and faculty, according to the statement. The company is also coordinating with the UW to immediately replace students’ lost or damaged cellphones and computers in time for upcoming exams, the statement says.

MTR Western, the charter bus company based in Seattle, owns a fleet of 123 charter buses and vans and undergoes comprehensive, routine safety investigations every three years, with the most recent investigation conducted in July 2016, said Kate Griffith, a spokeswoman for the state Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC). Charter bus companies are also subject to unannounced vehicle and driver checks, with MTR Western undergoing unannounced checks on 105 of its vehicles in the last 24 months, she said.

Following MTR Western’s July 2016 comprehensive safety investigation, the company received acute or critical violations for permitting a driver to drive a commercial motor vehicle without a commercial driver’s license; allowing a driver on the road who was not medically certified to be behind the wheel during the preceding 24 months; and failing to correct defects listed by a driver in a driver vehicle inspection report before the vehicle was operated again, according to Griffith.

MTR Western was upgraded to a satisfactory safety rating in Sept. 2016., she said. It wasn’t immediately clear if the company faced financial penalties for the violations.

Most recently, MTR Western received a $250 penalty assessment — reduced from a $1,000 penalty — in 2017 for failing to submit a complete annual report and failing to pay a regulatory fee by May 1 of that year, according to Griffith and documents posted on UTC’s website.

MTR Western vehicles have been involved in four motor vehicle accidents in the past 24 months, two in Washington and two in Oregon, according to Griffith, who couldn’t provide details of those incidents.

UTC is responsible for regulating the rates and services of private or investor-owned utility and telecommunication companies and some water districts, as well as household movers, solid waste carriers, private ferries, and intercity buses. The commission is also responsible for safety issues related to charter buses, party buses, limousines, railroads and nonprofit senior and handicap transportation service providers operating within the state.

MTR Western changed its name from Emerald City Trolley in 2013, though it remains under the ownership of H.S. Wright III, according to documents on the UTC website. The purpose of the name change was “purely aesthetic,” the company’s chief operating officer wrote in a Dec. 2013 letter to the UTC.

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