Two tour bus crashes occurred on both coasts of the U.S. over the Super Bowl weekend. Both resulted in over 60 injuries, but one in Southern California ended with the tragic deaths of eight people.
A tour bus crashed on Sunday, February 3, 2013, at around 6:30 p.m. on State Route 38 just outside of Yucaipa, California on a stretch of highway, a veteran driver described to the Press Enterprise, as “challenging.” Eight people have been confirmed dead from the fatal bus crash, and 30 more were injured.
The bus, which originated in Tijuana, was heading back to Mexico from Big Bear when its driver lost control, collided with a sedan, and overturned on top of a pickup truck. Multiple reports indicate that passengers aboard the bus were ejected from their seats during the crash. The injured were taken to three area hospitals.
Authorities say there were 38 people aboard the bus, including the driver and a tour guide. Reports have stated that passengers aboard the bus were “mainly medical students from Tijuana who were on a field trip to Big Bear.”
The bus is owned by Scapadas Magicas LLC, a company based in National City, California. Tijuana-based InterBus Tours was the company operating the bus at the time of the accident. InterBus issued a statement on the company’s Facebook page, offering condolences to everyone affected by the accident.
Seven of those killed in the crash were passengers in the bus. Among the dead were San Diego residents Victor Cabrera Garcia, 13, Elvira Garcia Jimenez, 40, and Guadalupe Olivias, 61. Also killed were Tijuana residents Aleida Adriana Arce Hernandez, 38, Rubicelia Escobedo Flores, 34, Mario Garcia Santoyo, 32, and Liliana Camerina Sanchez Sauceda, 24. The driver of the pickup hit by the bus, 72-year-old Fred Bailey Richardson, died from his injuries on Wednesday morning.
At this time, the cause of the accident is unclear. However, bus driver Norberto B. Perez told investigators that the bus had brake problems as it was traveling downhill. A witness to the crash corroborated the brake problems, telling KABC 7 that he “saw the bus coming down the hill and it was passing up all the other cars. It was swerving in the opposite lane trying to avoid cars. You could smell the brakes were burning.”
Reports have now surfaced detailing the safety lapses and repeated violations on the part of Scapadas Magicas, which in the past two years was cited for nearly 60 maintenance violations, including numerous brake problems. According to 2012 data provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Scapadas Magicas’ vehicle maintenance record exceeds the agency’s intervention threshold, which means that due to its maintenance violation record, the company “may be prioritized for an intervention action and roadside inspection.” In fact, Scapadas’ vehicles have performed below the average national rate for bus safety, having failed roughly 36 percent of random inspections on its vehicles.
Baum Hedlund bus accident attorneys believe that many bus accident deaths and injuries could be reduced or avoided altogether if bus companies implemented more safety features and regulators improved safety oversight. “Many deaths and injuries from cut-rate carrier accidents could be avoided or at least reduced if the safety features of the buses were improved,” one attorney said.
Just a day before Sunday’s fatal California tour bus crash, another bus carrying 42 people crashed in Boston, Massachusetts. At least 35 people were injured on Saturday evening when the Calvary Coach bus collided with a bridge on Soldier’s Field Road. The bus was transporting students back to Philadelphia from a trip to Harvard University. A 16-year-old boy is listed in critical condition and has endured multiple surgeries since the crash. Another person was listed in serious condition, and four others were stable.
Authorities say the bus should not have been traveling on Soldier’s Field Road, as there are many signs stating height and weight limits. The bus driver, Samuel J. Jackson, was cited by law enforcement for failure to heed signs.
These incidents are just two in a series of recent tour bus crashes. The past few years have seen a rise in similar incidents, some of which had the same catastrophic results. As investigations continue in both of this weekend’s bus accidents, it is clear that more needs to be done to eliminate the malfeasance that continues to allow these crashes to happen.