Overturned Tour Bus Company Had Multiple Safety Violations

by Jana Ritter - Published: 8/23/2013

At least 50 people were injured Thursday when a casino-bound tour bus rolled over on the Foothill (210) Freeway near the San Gabriel (605) Freeway about 20 miles east of Los Angeles in Irwindale, Calif., the CHP Aerial footage showed a large emergency response off the side of the freeway with firefighters tending to people on green, yellow and red triage tarps. The color-coded tarps indicate severity of injuries, with red being the most severe.

Bus crash

Of the 55 injured, 52 were bus passengers. The other three people injured were from other vehicles that were involved in the collision. While a majority of the injuries were minor, some were moderate and a few suffered major injuries – all the victims were ages 60 to 80. As of Thursday night, five victims remained in the hospital, including an 86-year-old man suffering from broken ribs.

The son of one of the injured passengers said that his mother was nervous about the driver's speed before the crash." She told me that she was talking to the person next to her, the bus was driving a little fast and right after that, the accident happened," Steven Zhang said." She was in shock. She almost cannot remember anything because it happened all of a sudden."

The crash shut down a major Southern California freeway. It prompted some motorists to get out of their cars to get a look as some victims were carried away in stretchers and a heavy tow vehicle was sent in to pull the bus from a ditch.

Jeff Lewis, a truck driver and former firefighter in the military, said he was driving behind the bus when it slammed on the brakes. Seconds later, with the bus resting on its side, Lewis said he and five or six others got out of their cars and helped pop open the front window to help passengers climb out one-by-one. The group pulled about half the passengers out in about 15 minutes, he said. “There were elderly people stuck on top of the other. They were going about 70 miles an hour and got thrown onto each other,” Lewis, 49, said. “They were very quiet; I would say they were in shock.”

The bus, belonging to Da Zhen out of Monterey Park, was due to arrive at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino at 10:30 a.m. on a day trip, a casino spokesman said. Da Zhen is a Chinese tour bus company that frequently offers day trips to casinos in California and Las Vegas.

Although none of its nine buses have been involved in crashes in the last two years, according to the U.S. Transportation Department's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the company did had safety violations. The CHP's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team, which investigates all major crashes throughout the state, was leading the probe.

"It's a little early to determine whether it was driver error," said Saul Gomez, a CHP spokesman. "We are worried more about the injured people than the actual investigation itself." Lt. Mark Garrett of the CHP said officers would conduct a "very thorough mechanical inspection" of the bus.

Traffic was backed up for miles as both sides of the freeway were shut down.