Government partly to blame for Hurricane Rita bus fire, two testify

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The government bears responsibility in part for a fatal bus fire that killed 23 long-term residents following Hurricane Rita, according to two people who testified at a hearing this week.

A Sunrise Senior Living employee and Bill Maulsby, the CEO of BusBank, the bus broker that arranged the bus for Sunrise, relied on government safety regulations when they used the bus that day, they testified at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing.

"Clearly, we're not safety experts. We don't inspect buses," Maulsby said.

The residents, all from Sunrise's Brighton Gardens community near Houston, died Sept. 23, 2005, while trying to flee the area. Investigators believe poorly maintained, dry wheel bearings led to friction that caused a tire fire. It was the mostly deadly accident stemming from the hurricane.