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Driver Blamed for Angel Bus Crash : Baseball: Safety board report says he let the bus run off the road, probably because he was fatigued.

August 14, 1993|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The National Transportation Safety Board has listed driver error as the probable cause of the bus crash that injured Angel Manager Buck Rodgers and 12 others on the New Jersey Turnpike in May, 1992.

The NTSB released its findings Friday, saying "the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the fatigued intercity bus driver to keep his vehicle on the roadway."

The report found no evidence to support Carl Venetz's claim that he lost control of the bus while steering it away from an object in the road at 1:50 a.m. May 21 in Deptford Township, N.J., as the Angels were making the 170-mile trip from New York to Baltimore.

"There's no way to tell if he was asleep, but he let the bus run off the road," said Allan Pollack, an NTSB spokesman. "He was fatigued and wasn't paying the type of attention to his duties as he should have been."

Venetz was not found in violation of any federal regulations regarding hours of service, which prohibit a driver from being on duty more than 15 hours or drive for more than 10 of those hours; he had been on duty fewer than 12 hours at the time of the accident. There was no evidence to suggest Venetz consumed alcohol or drugs, the report said.

After about nine hours' sleep, Venetz awoke at 11 a.m. May 20 and began his shift at 2:30 p.m.

"It is reasonable to assume that being on duty over 11 hours may have adversely affected his alertness," the report said.

Venetz had five speeding violations and 12 points on his driver's license.

His traffic record indicated he had participated in the New Jersey insurance surcharge program for excessive traffic violations. Venetz had been cited several times from 1990-92 for failing to pay premiums and had his license suspended four times for noncompliance.

"(The NTSB) findings are not inconsistent with what we believed from the beginning," said Jay Weinstein, an associate with Gaberini and Sher, the New York firm handling Rodgers' lawsuit.

Rodgers, 54, was the most seriously injured in the crash and missed three months of the season. According to court documents, he is seeking $25 million in damages against Venetz; Kevah Konner, Inc., of Pinebrook, N.J., an interstate motor carrier who owned the bus, and Campus Travel and its subsidiaries, which had a contract with the Angels to provide bus service but farmed it out to Kevah Konner.

Angel traveling secretary Frank Sims, who suffered four broken ribs, also has filed a suit.

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