Nevada School Districts Check Bus Defect

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Nevada school districts are inspecting buses for defective welds that safety officials say could lead to serious injuries if there is an accident.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in June recommended a nationwide inspection of Carpenter buses after one overturned in Florida. The roof of the bus collapsed to the level of the seats. No children were on the bus.

The Washoe County school board on Tuesday approved an additional $200,000 to buy about a dozen new buses on a lease-purchase program. The district has already budgeted $300,000 this year to buy new buses.

"This is not only a problem for us, but also for many other school districts in the state," said Washoe County Superintendent Jim Hager.

Washoe County crews found 69 out of 71 Carpenter buses had cracked or broken welds. In all, the district has about 300 buses.

Officials said 15 of the defective vehicles have been taken off the road. Minor problems were found in 56 buses will be repaired and the buses remain in service.

"It is absolutely safe to transport students in these buses," said Kurt Svare, the district's transportation director. "If it wasn't, we would have parked them ourselves."

In Carson City, officials are inspecting the district's 17 Carpenter buses to assess the possible damage. So far, four of six buses inspected need rewelding, said Kevin Curnes, Carson City schools transportation director.

Curnes said district's other 11 Carpenter buses are being inspected by the Nevada Highway Patrol.

"We're only allowed to repair once if the weld is not too bad," he told school trustees Tuesday. "After that, they have to be taken out of service and can only be sold as scrap."

In its advisory, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said buses with minor problems could remain in service for short, in-town routes that didn't require high speeds.

"That was the recommendation we got from both the national and state transportation authorities," said Mike Mitchell, Carson City schools director of operations.

"At top speed, they'll only be going 25 to 30 mph through town," he said.

The Clark County School District, the largest in the state, has taken 23 of its Carpenter buses off the road.