Fatigued Driver Likely Factor in Fatal Bus Crashby Jana Ritter - Published: 1/20/2016
The California Highway Patrol is still trying to determine what exactly led to Tuesday’s fatal bus crash that killed two passengers and injured several others. So far, they have ruled out drugs and alcohol and said the bus driver told investigators that he was fatigued and had bought a cup of coffee at the last stop before the crash.
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The Greyhound bus left Los Angeles at 11:30 p.m. Monday, where the driver had began his shift. The bus travelled along the U.S. 101 and was scheduled to arrive in Oakland on Tuesday morning with planned stops in Gilroy, San Jose and San Francisco. Although the company requires operators to rest nine hours between trips, the bus driver admitted that he was feeling fatigued and had stopped for a caffeine jolt in Gilroy. The bus continued to travel along the rain slicked highway and at about 30 miles north of Gilroy, the driver suddenly lost control of the bus and it plowed into safety barrels before flipping on its side across the concrete divider. “The bus carrying 20 passengers hit the barrels and then rolled onto the center divider of U.S. 101 in San Jose, a major commuting thoroughfare,” confirmed Greyhound spokeswoman, Lanesha Gipson.
Alex Ehlers was among the passengers and gave his account of the crash to KCBS Radio. He said that the driver had stopped for a bit but that he seemed to be nodding off after getting back on the highway. "I could feel him weaving and jerking the wheel a little bit and I knew it wasn't going to end up well," he said. Ehlers continued his story saying that a short time later, there was suddenly a loud noise "like a lightning strike hit the bus" and a loud scraping sound for about 10 seconds as the bus seesawed along the center median. "It felt like I was in space. Everything was weightless and loud," described Ehlers. He then said he heard people yelling and screaming and saw smoke coming from the rear of the bus. While he and his girlfriend managed to climb out of the wreckage, they saw other passengers lying face down on the concrete.
Tragically, two of those passengers have been confirmed dead. On Wednesday, the Santa Clara County coroner's office identified the victims as 51-year-old Fely Olivera of San Francisco and 76-year-old Maria De Jesus Ortiz Velasquez of Salinas. The California Highway Patrol says both women were killed when they were ejected from the bus when it flipped onto its side. At least 8 other people were sent to the hospital with injuries ranging from severe to moderate, including the driver who only suffered minor injuries.
In addition to the CHP inquiry, Eric Weiss of the National Safety Transportation Board said they are also sending their own team to investigate the cause of the crash. The California Department of Motor Vehicles says the bus driver has a clean driving record over the past three years and no history of drunken driving over the past 10 years.