Thursday, July 12, 2012

Houston Chronicle: Van in daycare center crash raises safety concerns

A 15-passenger van that was involved in a crash on Monday that sent 16 children to the hospital is the same type of vehicle under scrutiny by federal transportation safety officials.

Click here to read original article in Houston Chronicle on line.

In a 2006 report, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that 15-passenger vans “are involved in a higher number of single-vehicle accidents involving rollovers than are other passenger vehicles.”

Two women face child endangerment charges following the two-vehicle crash that injured the children and two adults, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

The driver of the van, Conception Coronado, 40, of Houston, and the daycare center owner, Darryl Cobbs Freeman, 55, of Spring, are each charged with felony criminal negligence-injury to a child, court records show.

Coronado, also known as Maria Del Carmen Gonzalez-Alvarez, is in the custody of U.S. immigration officials. A fugitive from Mexico, she was ordered removed by a federal immigration judge in January 1998, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Coronado is being held in the Harris County Jail on the criminal charges, and ICE has placed a detainer on her, federal officials said.

The van was equipped with safety restraints, but there were not enough on hand to safely accommodate all the children, said Deputy Thomas Gilliland, spokesman at the sheriff’s office.

What’s more, investigators said, the 15-passenger van was carrying 18 people, which put the vehicle at risk for a rollover, according to the NTSB report:

Fully loading or nearly loading a 15-passenger van causes the center of gravity to move rearward and upward, which increases its rollover propensity and could increase the potential for driver loss of control in emergency maneuvers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been evaluating vehicle rollover for years.

Two adults also sustained minor injuries in the crash, Gilliland said. The driver of the pickup truck declined medical attention at the scene.

Click here to read original article in Houston Chronicle on line.