A school bus driver who crashed into three parked cars Monday, careened up a curb and nearly struck a building was asleep at the wheel, according to police. He also had a litany of traffic violations on his record, including one as recent as last week.
“Investigators believe he fell asleep … based on information that investigators learned from witnesses,” said St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders.
Eighteen students heading to West Side Summit Charter School and an adult bus monitor were on board when driver Mohamed M. Wasuge, 31, lost control of his bus, causing two students and the monitor to be briefly hospitalized for aches and pains.
Wasuge was mailed a citation Wednesday for careless driving, Linders said.
West Side Summit executive director Karen Klinzing said Monday that she had been told the bus hit a patch of ice.
Wasuge’s employer, Bille Bus Transportation, has not returned messages seeking comment. But Klinzing said Wednesday night that she’s been notified that Wasuge was immediately fired.
Court records show that Wasuge, of St. Paul, has been convicted of traffic violations at least 11 times since 2003, presumably involving personal vehicles and not buses.
On Feb. 2, just a week before Monday’s crash that sheared a wheel off the bus, Wasuge was cited in Ramsey County District Court with unsafe lane usage.
“Driver stated there was something wrong with the steering of his car and then he hit some ice and went off the road into the steel guard head,” according to court documents. “The ramp was clear of ice when I arrived on scene. Moderate speed impact. Driver inattention at the time of crash.”
Last March, he was cited for driving into an intersection after the light had turned red. A charge of failing to obey a traffic control device was dismissed after he paid diversion and prosecution costs, but he was convicted of not having insurance and was sentenced to a year of probation.
Many of Wasuge’s previous transgressions seem minor, including parking meter violations. However, he was convicted in 2014 of failing to obey a traffic control device and in 2012 of stopping, standing or parking at a roadside.
He was convicted in 2006 of failing to obey a traffic control device. Court records show that the conviction was dismissed once he met conditions of his sentencing.
Monday’s crash occurred about 8 a.m. in the 1400 block of E. Minnehaha Avenue near Birmingham Street.
The bus was traveling west on Minnehaha Avenue when it sideswiped the cars and jumped a curb. The intersection is a two-way stop, with stop signs for vehicles traveling north and south on Birmingham.
According to Klinzing, the school contracts with Bille Bus Transportation for six routes in the morning and six in the afternoon. She said the school spoke to the company about a month ago regarding Wasuge “being attentive at the wheel” because he wasn’t getting to school on time.
A troubled company
In two of the last four years, Bille Bus has failed more bus safety inspections than it has passed, according to state Department of Public Safety reports.
Although the company’s performance has improved over the last two years, where the number of annual inspections has more than doubled, its passing rate did not exceed 60 percent in 2015.
Company owner Abdirizak Bille was convicted in 2014 of failing to provide annual in-service training to each school bus driver as required by the state, a petty misdemeanor.