On January 19, 2016, two people were killed and at least 18 other people sustained injuries in the early morning hours when a Greyhound bus flipped onto its side and crashed on Highway 101 in San Jose, California. The San Jose bus accident was reported at around 6:40 a.m. near the Highway 85 connector. No other vehicles were involved in the initial accident.
Many of the passengers were fast asleep when the Greyhound bus hit a series of yellow protection barrels at the edge of the carpool lane and overturned onto its side. Some passengers who were awake, however, told CBS San Francisco that they believe the Greyhound bus driver may have been falling asleep at the wheel prior to the San Jose bus accident.
A witness who was driving about 200 meters behind the Greyhound bus told law enforcement that the bus merged into the carpool lane just before the Highway 85 transition ramp, then lost traction. The bus was briefly airborne before it rolled over onto the median and came to rest on its right side.
Two women, seated near the front of the bus, were ejected from the vehicle. Both victims of the San Jose bus accident were pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders. Authorities have identified them as 51-year-old Fely Olivera of San Francisco and 76-year-old Maria De Jesus Ortiz Velasquez of Salinas.
Friends told the media that Olivera had been in Los Angeles visiting her two sons before she was forced to cut her trip short and return home to San Francisco to see her doctor. The 51-year-old had just immigrated to San Francisco from the Philippines.
An official with the San Jose Fire Department said at least five people were taken to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries. Eight people in total were hospitalized, including the Greyhound driver and a young child. A total of 20 passengers were on the bus at the time of the accident.
Alex Ehlers, a Denver resident who survived the San Jose bus accident, told the Mercury News that the accident sounded like a lightning strike. He recalled feeling “weightless” and remembers the bus see-sawing on the center median. People were screaming and smoke was coming from the back of the bus. As he and his girlfriend climbed out of the wreckage, they were horrified to find bodies face down on the highway.
The Greyhound bus, No. 86558, was traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with additional scheduled stops in Gilroy, San Jose, and Oakland.
Greyhound established a “friends and family” hotline for those affected by the San Jose bus accident. People looking for information can call (800) 972-4583.
Did Driver Fatigue Play a Role in the San Jose Bus Accident?
The driver began his shift when the bus departed Los Angeles at 11:30 p.m. Monday night. Per Greyhound company policy, drivers are required to rest for at least nine hours between shifts. The driver will be required to submit to a blood test to screen for drugs and alcohol, which is standard procedure in the wake of a crash like this.
Passenger Alex Ehlers said about 10 miles south of the accident site, the bus driver pulled over to “catch himself, and was unable to.” Ehlers recalled that he could feel the bus driver veering and at times “jerking the wheel a little bit.”
According to numerous media reports, the Greyhound bus driver told investigators that he was feeling fatigued prior to the San Jose bus accident. In Gilroy—the scheduled stop before the bus was due to make another scheduled stop in San Jose—the driver bought a coffee at a roadside shop.
While it is still too early to say with certainty that driver fatigue caused the fatal accident, initial accounts from witnesses and Greyhound passengers point to the possibility of driver fatigue playing a role in the crash.
The San Jose bus accident investigation will be conducted by the California Highway Patrol and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Greyhound will also be conducting an internal investigation.
In addition to the actions of the driver, investigators will be looking into the maintenance records of the Greyhound bus and weather conditions at the time of the crash. Additionally, officials will be examining the bus itself for any evidence of mechanical failure.