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Van crash shocker: Charged driver has spotty record

A Dorchester man who is accused of driving on drugs when his van full of special-needs adults slammed into a garbage truck, injuring all 12, has a history of out-of-state moving violations, records show.

Addis Gabriel Woldeguiorguis’ driving record includes entries within the past 10 years for illegal possession of drugs and leaving the scene of an accident, as well as earlier entries for driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street and speeding — all out of New York, according to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. Details on the resolution of the cases were not immediately available.

“I’m assuming that’s the sort of thing people would check before you hire,” said Rep. Kay Khan (D-Newton), House chairwoman of the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. The van’s owner, Chestnut Hill-based AART, declined to comment yesterday. State law requires that employers conduct criminal and driving record background checks.

Woldeguiorguis, 51, was headed north on Highland Street in Newton shortly after 9 a.m. when his van hit a Waste Management Services truck contracted by the city, injuring him and his 12 passengers, Lt. Bruce Apotheker said.

Three passengers, including one who had to be extricated with the Jaws of Life, were taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, authorities said. Woldeguiorguis and nine other passengers, ranging from their 20s to their 60s, were taken to Newton-Wellesley Hospital with less serious injuries.

Woldeguiorguis was charged with driving under the influence of drugs and held on $15,000 bail, according to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office.

Jennifer Kritz, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, said AART is a subcontractor of the Montacusett Region Transit Authority, with whom the state contracts. The transit authority could not immediately be reached for comment.

Kritz said van drivers also must have a valid license from Massachusetts or a contiguous state and three years of experience driving multi-passenger vehicles, provide written references, undergo an annual Criminal Offender Record Information check and have an annually updated RMV report on file with their employer.

Employers must exercise their best judgment about any driver whose report shows any violations, Kritz said. But at a minimum, she added, people should be barred from driving the disabled if they have a history of serious moving violations within the past 10 years.

Yesterday’s collision is the latest involving drivers carrying people with special needs. In March, a school bus driver with a 3-year-old special-needs child on board was charged with failure to stop for a police officer and reckless driving in Dorchester. Two months later, seven people were injured — one seriously — when a van carrying adult students and staff from an Attleboro special-needs school crashed into a utility pole in Foxboro.

Source:  bostonherald.com