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State investigating bus company in Henry crash

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The motor-carrier company involved in Saturday's charter bus accident along Interstate 75, in Stockbridge, is being investigated for operating without a proper license, state licensing officials said.

Bill Edge, a spokesman for the Georgia Public Service Commission, said state authorities believe the motor carrier, known as Superior Coaches of Atlanta, may have been illegally operating in Georgia since last fall. The company reportedly goes by other names, including Superior Transportation Group, Inc., and Superior Service Works, Inc., each having the same Atlanta address.

The company was listed as Superior Coaches of Atlanta in an initial, but incomplete, permit application to the Public Service Commission in November 2008, according to Edge.

Edge said the commission, which is responsible for certifying and issuing state permits for motor-carrier companies, sent the company a letter asking its owners to "cease and desist" operations until its permit application was completed.

The permit application requires that motor-carrier companies provide proof of insurance, and pass specified safety inspections of their vehicles, according to the Public Service Commission's web site.

The company's owners must also undergo a background check. The process, according to Edge, takes between 30 and 60 days to complete.

Edge said the commission decided to dismiss the Superior Coaches of Atlanta permit application on March 25, 2009, because the owners of the company had not responded to requests to complete the application process.

The company, involved in the accident that sent 13 of 42 Morehouse College passengers to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, has apparently been in business in the state for some time.

Edge said he is not sure how long the company has been in the state. "We're going to have an investigation into their illegal operations," he said.

The PSC can pursue civil sanctions in the form of fines, Edge said.

Edge said the commission's investigation will include a hearing, which will likely be held after the new year begins.

According to Toni O'Neal Mosley, spokeswoman for Morehouse College, one Morehouse student remained hospitalized as a result of Saturday's accident.

"As it relates to the bus transportation company, Morehouse College hired Adventure Bus Charter and Tours Inc., based in Sumiton, Ala., to transport the members of the Maroon Tiger Marching Band to Albany, Ga., on Saturday, Oct. 31," Mosley said in a statement Tuesday.

Mosley said the college had no specific information about what company was operating the charter bus during the accident.

"We have used the services of Adventure Bus Charter and Tours, Inc., for a number of years without incident," she continued. "We are conducting an internal investigation to determine how Superior Transportation Group, Inc., in Atlanta, was involved."

Henry County Police are currently involved in an ongoing investigation surrounding the bus accident, according to Police Capt. Jason Bolton.

Bolton said the police department is awaiting the findings of the Motor Carriers Compliance Division of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, which is conducting a safety inspection of the charter bus.

Representatives of Superior Coaches of Atlanta could not be reached for comment Tuesday regarding the accident and investigation.

Edge, the Public Service Commission spokesman, advised those who may have used the company recently to contact the commission's transportation department or consumer affairs division at (404) 656-4501. Edge said consumers can find a list of legally operating motor-carrier companies at the commission's web site, as well as a list of companies that have not been permitted through the commission.

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On the net:

Georgia Public Service Commission: www.psc.state.ga.us