German police sideline DODEA-contracted school bus over safety violations
Stars and Stripes April 27, 2023
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A bus contracted to transport Defense Department school students was ordered out of service this week after an inspection uncovered three pages worth of safety defects, local law enforcement officials said.
During a routine roadside check Tuesday by the Westpfalz police, the driver told officers he was going to pick up American schoolchildren.
The violations included a problem with the exhaust system that allowed fumes to enter the passenger compartment. Additionally, required devices such as emergency escape hammers and fire extinguishers were either missing or expired, authorities reported.
Westpfalz police did not name the owner-operator of the bus, citing German privacy laws, but they said it is registered to a woman from the nearby Saar-Pfalz district.
She now faces substantial fines for the violations, according to a police statement, which did not specify the exact range of the penalty.
The inspection failure comes about six weeks after a single-vehicle crash involving a different DODEA-contracted bus operated by the company Schary Reisen.
On March 10, the bus flipped over an embankment along a rural road near Ramstein Air Base, leaving the students to break a back window to free themselves.
The 60-year-old driver, whose name wasn’t disclosed in accordance with privacy rules, was intoxicated at the time, according to authorities. His license was suspended, and he is being investigated on suspicion of endangering road traffic and doing bodily harm to passengers, German police said.
Authorities continue their investigation of the crash, Udo Gehring, senior public prosecutor in Kaiserslautern, said Thursday, adding that they are not close to a conclusion yet.
A March 14 DODEA letter to parents called the rollover “completely unacceptable” and stated that the school system would work with contractors to ensure such crashes never happen again.
Representatives for DoDEA-Europe on Thursday were not immediately available to answer questions on the most recent safety steps taken by school administration officials.