FMCSA questioned over inspection record of TX bus involved in fire

| 8/10/2006

One federal safety agency came under fire from another federal safety agency on Wednesday for its apparent lack of safety inspections prior to a commercial bus fire that killed 23 nursing home patients in Texas as they fled Hurricane Rita.

The Associated Press reported that in a hearing in Washington, D.C., Kitty Higgins, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, noted that the company that owned the bus started doing business in the 1980s, but wasn't reviewed for safety problems by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration until 2004.

Investigators believe the fire started with an overheated wheel bearing, then spread to oxygen canisters inside the bus, The AP reported.

“How could a company go 24 years without a review?” Higgins asked in the hearing.

William Quade, director of FMCSA's safety program office, responded by saying his agency is working with limited resources to improve its safety oversight.