Tea Bagger Bus Company Sued Over Fire That Killed 23

One of the featured corporate sponsors of the Tea Party Express had to pay millions of dollars to settle lawsuits for its role in a bus fire that killed 23 seniors fleeing Hurricane Rita in 2005.


The BusBank, a Chicago-based charter company, a "Tour Sponsor" of the Tea Party Express, a rolling protest sponsored by the Our Country Deserves Better PAC under the supervision of former Republican state legislator Howard Kaloogian, now a PR exec for the GOP-linked firmRusso, Marsh & Rogers.

Bus Bank is also arranging to ferry Tea Baggers to their 9/12 march on Washington to voice their demands for unfettered capitalism.

In 2005, a bus carrying seniors fleeing Hurricane Rita burst into flame outside of Dallas, killing 23 nursing home residents. Investigators later found that the bus was: driven by an undocumented migrant without a valid U.S. driver's license, lacking adequate fire extinguishers, and not licensed to operate in Texas. When the bus had mechanical problems before the crash, the driver took it to an unqualified mechanic who failed to notice the critical fault--an unlubricated axle that eventually melted and burst into flame.

BusBank (aka Global Charters) hired the subcontractor, Global Limo. BusBank boasted on its website that it had a "rigorous operator certification process" to ensure the safety of contracted bus drivers. BusBank used Global even though the subcontractor had a long record of federal and statesafety violations, had entered bankruptcy, and was being sued.

BusBank's association with Global appears to have been more than a one-off, Global Limo's owner Jim Maples even listed Global Charters as his employer when he gave $5000 to the RNC in 2004.

BusBank CEO Bill Maulsby blamed insufficient federal oversight, "We're not safety experts," he said. "We clearly need to depend on the federal government."

In November 2006, a federal court convicted Maples and sentenced him tofive years' probation for failure to maintain his buses. Investigators found 168 violations in Maples' four-bus fleet.

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