Company involved in Sigma Chi bus crash wasn’t licensed

    The bus company involved in an August bus crash was not licensed by the state of Texas.

    The company that owns the charter bus that crashed while taking TCU students to the LSU-TCU game at AT&T Stadium in August has been barred from doing business in Texas since 2009, according to state records.

    Dignity Outreach Center Inc. failed to pay taxes and lost its license to do business a year after it was formed, according to the Texas Comptroller’s Office.  An investigation into the crash by TCU360 also found that the bus had been taken out of service by federal inspectors in June.

    When contacted by email about the crash, Tyrone Allen, the director of Dignity Outreach, wrote in an email reply: “All involved are in contact with the right personal [sic], there are no further comments.”

    On Aug. 31, more than 40 people – most affiliated with the Sigma Chi fraternity – boarded the Dallas-based carrier’s charter bus for the game. The practice of having students travel off-campus by charter is commonplace at TCU, and often seen as a safeguard against drinking and driving.

    However, the university coordinates charter services only for university-sponsored events, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Kathy Cavins-Tull said.

    Further, national headquarters, not the university, govern fraternities and sororities.

    “Our fraternities and sororities are corporations,” Cavins-Tull said. “When they are going [to an event], by their national policies they have to contract a bus to go there. We have no oversight.”

    Brooke Scogin, director of Fraternity and Sorority Life, referred all questions back to Sigma Chi when asked about the fraternity’s relationship with the company.

    Sigma Chi president Shane Sullivan did not respond to an email or phone calls to answer questions regarding the fraternity’s involvement with Dignity Outreach Center.

    According to federal records, Dignity Outreach Center’s bus was pulled out of service on June 21 after an inspector found that the brake lights didn’t work.

    The report also noted that the unidentified driver wasn’t licensed and lacked the proper medical certificate.

    When inspectors pull a bus off the road, a company has 15 days to fix the issues and submit the proper documentation to the state, said Steve Keppler, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The CVSA enforces regulations on commercial vehicles put forth by the federal government.

    Although no records could be found showing that Dignity Outreach addressed these issues, records from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles show a registration was issued on July 7 to a bus with the same vehicle identification number. The new registration allowed the bus to operate within state lines.

    “Texas, for whatever reason, has agreed to give them another registration,” Keppler said.

    Dignity Outreach Center has no web page or significant Web presence. Its physical location, which doesn’t have a working phone number, is in the 2700 block of Marjorie Avenue in south Dallas.

    On the afternoon of the crash, the bus was carrying 46 passengers, most of them associated with the Sigma Chi fraternity, Sullivan said.

    The driver, Ronnie Sweet, 50, told police that the brakes failed and that he drove the bus onto a curb to avoid hitting any vehicles.  The bus was headed north on University Drive near the Park Hill Drive intersection when it struck a utility pole. The crash shattered multiple windows.

    Nine students went to the hospital with minor injuries.

    According to the accident report, TCU student Rebecca Blake was seated behind Sweet when the crash occurred. Blake told police she thought the driver was “distracted and not paying full attention to the road and traffic conditions and did not have time to react to the stopped traffic.”

    Cavins-Tull said she doesn’t know whether or not it is a good idea for the university to become more involved with charter service oversight because the issue involves liability.

    “How much responsibility and liability does a university want to take every time we’re moving a group of students to a function that we don’t plan?” she said.

    View the map below to see where the accident took place and where Dignity Outreach Center Inc. is located as well as the distance between the two:

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