Friday, July 25, 2003

Bus driver charged in fatal crash

Mentally disabled passenger died in Milford wreck

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MILFORD - A 61-year-old Bethel man was charged Thursday with vehicular manslaughter for a bus crash this month that killed a 29-year-old mentally disabled woman.

Robert A. Baker was the driver of a Clermont Transportation Connection bus that ran into a bridge July 10 along U.S. 50.

The bus was carrying four passengers, clients of the county's MRDD agency. They were headed to Stepping Stones Center in Indian Hill to swim, officials said.

Tara L. Davis, of Williamsburg, died after she was ejected from the 14-passenger bus.

Baker, a retired Metro bus driver with more than 30 years experience, told police he hit a curb and then ran into the concrete trestle that supports the bridge.

According to Milford police, the bus was traveling in the right lane about 30 mph. The posted speed limit is 35 mph.

Davis, the police report states, was not wearing a seat belt. Baker and the three other passengers were.

The bus, a Ford E-450 purchased July 1, had been in service for less than a week.

Melissa O'Farrell, Clermont Transportation Connection operations manager, said the bus was inspected but she had yet to receive a report on the results.

According to his personnel records, Baker, a retired U.S. Navy reservist, had no criminal or traffic violations.

According to references contained in the file, Baker is described as a generous, dedicated man who works long hours willingly and befriends people easily.

He retired from Metro last year and was hired as a part-time driver in January at a starting wage of $9.22 an hour.

The crash occurred within Hamilton County boundaries.

Baker is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County Municipal Court Aug. 7, officials said, adding that the vehicular manslaughter charge he faces is a second-degree misdemeanor. It carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine.

Officials said he is accused of failing to maintain control of the vehicle. This allegation, coupled with Davis' death, led to the vehicular manslaughter charge.

Baker has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of court action.


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