Eight people were killed and an estimated 44 others sustained injuries late Saturday morning when a charter bus rolled over on a south Texas highway. The Texas bus accident was reported at around 11:30 a.m. on the northbound side of U.S. Route 83, 46 miles north of Laredo.
Owned by OGA Charters of Hidalgo County, the charter bus was transporting 51 passengers from Rio Grande to Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass when the driver all of a sudden lost control of the bus. Seven people were ejected from the bus as it overturned on a rain soaked U.S. 83. Officials have not yet commented on whether or not the rain was a factor in the Texas bus accident.
All of the ejected passengers were pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders. Another victim was later pronounced dead at an area hospital, bringing the death toll in the Texas bus accident to eight.
Webb County Medical Examiner Corinne Stern, who has worked for the county for a decade, called Laredo the “worst commercial vehicle accident” she has seen in her career.
Victims of Texas Bus Accident Identified
On Sunday, the Texas bus accident victims were identified as Adelfa Garza, Dora Nelly Gonzalez, Frances Guerrero, Marisela Lopez, Maria de Jesus Musquiz, Jaime Navarro, Altagracia Torres and Emma Rodriguez Zamudio. The ages of the deceased haven’t been officially released, though media outlets have reported that most were in their 50s and 60s. The oldest victim was 83. All were Latino Americans and U.S. citizens, according to Texas Home Page.
Authorities estimate that 44 people sustained injuries in the Texas bus accident. Twenty-two of the bus passengers were rushed to Doctors Hospital of Laredo, 15 were taken to Laredo Medical Center and seven others to a hospital in Dimmit County. A spokesperson for Laredo Medical Center said the patients they received were listed in stable condition. No word on the conditions of the victims taken to the other hospitals.
The bus driver suffered major injuries in the crash, but survived. Investigators still haven’t been able to interview him about what may have caused the Texas bus accident.
According to The Monitor, several employees of the La Joya Independent School District were passengers aboard the bus. Officials have indicated the LJISD employees planned the casino trip themselves and were not involved a school-related event at the time.
Juan Luna, from La Joya American Federation of Teachers, said at least five passengers are employees at John F. Kennedy Elementary in Peñitas. At least one of the passengers is a school councilor and two others are clerks.
The counselor, Marta Villarreal, suffered a broken hip in the crash. One of the clerks was identified as Rosemary Bernal, who sustained a broken rib. Another LJISD employee, Natalie Alaniz, was listed in stable condition following the Texas bus accident.
Mr. Luna told the media that a cafeteria worker was one of the deceased. He believes she was the eighth reported fatality who died at an area hospital following the crash. Mr. Luna didn’t divulge the identity of the cafeteria worker.
A family member who did not wish to identify herself told The Monitor that three of her aunts were passengers aboard the bus. She said one of her aunts was killed in the crash, one was transferred to a hospital in San Antonio and the other was released from a hospital after receiving treatment.
This family member said she spoke to a Department of Public Safety official who informed her that the tour bus overturned and rolled over three times before it finally came to rest. She added that bodies were ejected from the bus windows while other passengers were trapped inside the wreckage.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement on the Texas bus accident, extending his deepest condolences to those affected. “I ask the entire State of Texas to keep the families of loved ones lost today, as well as the Dimmit County community, in its thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” he said.
OGA Charters Has a History of Maintenance Problems
A number of sources have indicated that OGA Charters had twice been ordered by inspectors in the state of Louisiana to take one of its buses off the road to fix brake and emergency exit issues.
OGA Charters was initially told to sideline a bus due to brake issues in May of last year. During that inspection, officials in Louisiana reported leaks in the brake connections, along with automatic brake adjustment system problems and a discolored windshield. The bus was ordered out of service due to the fact that at least 20 percent of its brakes were considered to be defective.
In August, another inspection uncovered general brake problems, citing some of the same issues outlined in the May 2015 inspection, as well as the emergency exit issue. The report also pointed out the same discolored windshield problem that was found months earlier and ordered the bus out of service.
It is unclear whether the bus involved in Saturday’s accident was the same one ordered off the road by regulators, or if OGA Charters took steps to remedy the brake and emergency exit issues.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will head an investigation into the Texas bus accident. NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said part of the investigation will focus on OGA Charters operations. The agency has asked for inspection and maintenance records for its fleet of buses.
Federal records show that OGA Charters received a “satisfactory” rating in 2014, and prior to Saturday, had not been in an accident over the last two years. However, six vehicle and driver inspections conducted since 2014 found 15 violations. These violations ranged from bus maintenance problems, to bus drivers being behind the wheel for more hours than the law allows.
The NTSB investigation into the Texas bus accident is expected to take about a year to complete.
Bus Accident Law Firm
The bus accident law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman has a long history of litigating bus accident cases. Our firm has represented victims and their families in more than 90 bus crash cases across the country over the past 25 years.
We have handled bus accident cases against Greyhound, Ford Motor Company, American Tour and Leasing Co., Bluebird, Sky Express, Inc., American Stage Lines, San Diego Metropolitan Transit, Mexico Transportacion Turista Peninsular, Windsor Inc., and Travellers Coach Company Limited, among others.
If you would like to speak with an experienced bus accident attorney about your case, please call us at (855) 948-5098. We are here to help and can answer any questions you may have related to your claim.