HOUSTON (Houston Chronicle) - A private bus company involved in a Tuesday morning crash that injured more than a dozen Houston middle school students was not authorized by the state to be on the road, records show.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles now plans to investigate Nancy's Bus Service, said agency spokesman Adam Shaivitz. The Houston company is not registered with the state as required, and its registration was revoked in 2009 because it was not insured, according to state records and Shaivitz.
A bus operated by the company was taking 22 students to Revere Middle School in southwest Houston when it hit a tree about 8 a.m. less than 2 miles from the campus.
It was only the second day of school, and several students - wearing uniforms of collared shirts and khakis - were wheeled on stretchers into ambulances.
Houston police said 18 students were taken to the hospital for minor injuries and checkups. The bus driver, who has not been identified, also was taken to an area hospital.
Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva said the driver told investigators that a mechanical failure caused the bus to veer to the left and strike the tree in the 9500 block of Briar Forest near Tanglewilde. No charges have been filed.
The owner of the bus company could not be reached for comment.
Why the students were using a private bus company is unclear. The principal of Revere, Hafedh Azaiez, said he did not know the reason, and the Houston Independent School District does not track private rides, said HISD spokeswoman Sheleah Reed.
But, she added, it's not uncommon for parents to hire outside transportation - perhaps the students live nearby and do not qualify for HISD busing, or they may not like the district's pick-up location.
Azaiez posted a letter to parents on the school's website Tuesday afternoon.
"Please know that we take these situations very seriously," the principal said. "Your child's safety is our absolute top priority. We currently are re-evaluating this company and the transportation services it offers."
Motor carriers operating intrastate commercial motor vehicles, including school buses, in Texas must register with the DMV. The agency can impose administrative penalties such as fines as well as suspend, revoke or deny registration for those who do not comply with the transportation codes.
Shaivitz, the DMV spokesman, said that the operators of Nancy's Bus Service have not reapplied for registration since the company's 2009 revocation. Agency records also indicate that the company was last insured in 2012. Its current status is unclear.
An identification number on the bus also is tied to a bus company with a different name, recently filed federal records show.
That company, however, is listed on the Texas DMV website as unregistered and not authorized, as well.
In a residential neighborhood Tuesday morning, the yellow school bus with "Nancy's Bus Service" written on the side in blue could be seen partially atop a median - the front smashed into a large tree.
One student said she felt a bump before the bus hit the tree.
"And then the bus, like, started shaking a lot. And then all I know is I was on the floor and everybody got up and everybody was scared," she said.
Reed, the HISD spokeswoman, said the district keeps a list of bus companies approved for field trips, and Nancy's Bus Service was not on the list.
"However, parents are allowed to use any private bus company service (as they are paying for it)," Reed said in an email.
Trustee Greg Meyers, who represents Revere Middle School, said he thinks HISD officials should give parents information about vetting bus companies and share its list of bus vendors approved for field trips as a starting point.
"I would think that any parent would want to make sure that a particular bus company that's chosen would have the proper certification," Meyers said. "As a parent, I know I would."
The wreck was one of two involving school buses Tuesday morning. In the other, a cement mixer hit an Aldine ISD bus. No serious injuries were reported.
Reporter Dale Lezon contributed to this story.
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