String of Deadly Tour Bus Accidents In California
First, in Soledad, there were several fatalities of French Citizens.
The Soledad tour bus crash happened just a little before 3:30 p.m., Pacific time. The Orion tour bus threw four passengers from the large tour bus, sending one passenger over the side of a bridge and on some adjacent railroad tracks about 50 feet down. News footage shows passenger baggage and reports by tour bus accident lawyers in Soledad indicate that bodies were thrown onto U.S. 101 in Soledad, California, near San Francisco to the South.
It turns out that bus driver had a history of bus accidents, and was he was speeding in the most recent Soledad bus accident.
The county Sheriff's Office Coroner's Division said the bus driver, John Egnew, 69, of Corona, was among the five people who died in the crash, which occurred at 3:23 p.m. on southbound Highway 101 near Front Street in Soledad. The California Highway Patrol said the impact caused the bus to overturn, ejecting three people - including Egnew - onto the lower level of the overpass.
Egnew was among three people declared dead at the scene, the CHP said. Cmdr. Scott Ragan of the Coroner's office said Wednesday that Egnew died from head and neck injuries after he was thrown from the bus, which was carrying a group of 34 French tourists on a tour of the California coast.
Authorities have not released the names of the four other people who were killed Tuesday, pending notification of relatives.
Investigators said Egnew's death could complicate efforts to reconstruct the Tuesday crash that sent him and two others plummeting 60 to 70 feet from the U.S. 101 overpass.
"It would help if he were alive to find a reason, but there are other means we can use to determine the cause," CHP spokesman Brian Wiest said.
Two other passengers died later that day at regional hospitals.
Wiest said investigators are looking at all possible factors in the crash, including whether drugs or speed were involved. A list of those who survived the crash may be available this week, he said.
Federal records show Weeks Enterprises, an Orange company that owns tour bus operator Orion Pacific, had a solid safety record during the two years leading up to Tuesday's crash in Soledad. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency that regulates commercial interstate travel, said that no states reported accidents for the carrier in the last 30 months. During 14 random roadside inspections, no driver issues or problems with the company's 12 buses turned up either, records show.
Orion Pacific last had a comprehensive audit of its vehicles and safety practices in December 2006 and earned a satisfactory rating, the highest possible. As a result of the fatal crash, another compliance review will be conducted, agency spokesman Duane DeBruyne said Wednesday.
The Canadian tour guide on board was not killed, he said. Four of the passengers are under the age of 18. A 13-year-old were flown to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
The French tourists arrived April 19 in Los Angeles to tour the state and were headed to Santa Maria before reaching Los Angeles for their trip back to France.
Wiest said the tourists left San Francisco about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday en route to Santa Maria. He said the group stopped in Monterey and Carmel briefly before returning to the 101.
A French passenger who was released from the hospital Tuesday night said he thought the bus had been going too fast. Giles Gomes told KION-TV that passengers in the back of the bus were commenting just before the crash that the vehicle seemed to be having problems.
"Everybody was complaining there was something wrong with the bus before the accident, but they don't know exactly what it was," Gomes said through a translator.
Meanwhile, both southbound lanes of the highway, which were closed to repair the guardrail, were reopened by 3:10 p.m. Wednesday. On Tuesday night, traffic was backed up for hours as crews cleaned up the scene.
A spokeswoman for the Canadian Consulate General in Los Angeles said the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is aware of the Canadian tour guide who was involved in the crash, and who is being treated for injuries. Details were not provided due to privacy concerns.
Jacques de Noray, of the French consulate in San Francisco, said the French citizens involved are from different parts of France, including Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille. Local officials are working with the consulate to reach the family members of those who died or were injured.
The wreckage of the tour bus was hauled away early Wednesday morning by Auto Care Towing in Watsonville. Wiest said the CHP's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team is trying to piece together what happened.
Those injured were transported to nine hospitals - Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Regional Medical Center of San Jose, Stanford Medical Center, Watsonville Community Hospital, Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Natividad Medical Center, Mee Memorial Hospital and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
Natividad Medical Center officials said the four patients they received from the bus crash Wednesday were treated and released.
Andrea Rosenberg, incident commander at the hospital, said four other people were transported with trauma injuries Wednesday to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
Taxi vouchers were provided to two of those released from Natividad who had a family member at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. A taxi voucher was also provided to a discharged patient whose spouse is being treated at Salinas Valley Memorial.
At SVMH, officials said a 52-year-old male passenger died Wednesday. Two other patients were treated at the hospital. As of Wednesday morning, officials said, one of the patients was still in the intensive care unit.
Family members have been arriving to see their loved ones at the hospital, said spokeswoman Adrienne Laurent.
Lauren Elsensohn, a spokeswoman at the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula, said five patients were taken to CHOMP - three were admitted overnight for observation; another two, both women, have been transferred to the Regional Medical Center of San Jose for additional treatment. Elsensohn said all three patients are listed in "good condition."
Of the five admitted at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, hospital officials said, one died. Three are listed under critical condition and one is in serious condition.
Watsonville Community Hospital spokesperson Cindy Weigelt said six of the seven people admitted there, ranging in age from 12 to 59, were released by 3 a.m. Wednesday. A 26-year-old female passenger is expected to be released today, Weigelt said. A 12-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy were among those treated, she said.
Mee Memorial Hospital in King City said they treated and released one person and transferred another to a hospital in San Jose.
Also known as crash reconstruction experts, the Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team will be recreating the scene to what caused the crash - taking into consideration information including measurements and the seating of passengers.
"We have to explain what happened," said Fran Clader, a CHP spokeswoman in Sacramento. "They will be able [to determine] with a high degree of certainty how the crash occurred."
So in that case, the driver was most likely at fault. Then, today, 28 more people were injured in a San Diego Tour Bus crash.
According to reports by California San Diego tour bus accident attorneys, a bus owned by Inland Empire Stages Limited crashed into a sound barrier.
In statements by California Highway Patrol Officer Danny Hesser the Inland Empire Stages Limited bus was returning from a trip to San Diego and crashed into a sound barrier between Riverside and San Bernardino. The bus crashed into a sound barrier on Interstate 215 in Parris, approximately 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
I will keep you posted as to the outcome of both cases.