A tour bus crash in California has claimed eight lives and resulted in dozens of hospitalizations, with more than 40 people injured.
Our North Carolina personal injury lawyers are heartbroken for the families of those lost, and will continue to hope for a swift recovery for those who were hurt.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about all of this is that the crash was likely entirely preventable. The investigation is ongoing, but initial reports are beginning to paint a picture revealing the company that owned the motor coach may have prized profits over people – underscoring the critical importance of thoroughly researching any transportation firm when planning your next road trip.
According to local news reports, the passengers on the bus were on their way back to Mexico, following a daylong trip to a ski resort in Southern California. The driver reportedly lost control of the vehicle, potentially due to a brake failure, and the bus careened down the hill at a high rate of speed. The vehicle allegedly slammed into a car heading the same direction before swerving into the opposite lane and striking a pick-up that was towing a trailer. The bus ultimately flipped over in a complete 360, ejecting passengers and crushing in portions of the roof.
Making matters worse was the fact that the mountainous terrain where the crash occurred made it difficult for rescuers arrive quickly and transport the injured.
At least one passenger who survived told investigators that people inside began to panic when the brakes began smoking and the driver screamed for someone to call 911. However, the remote location of the roadway meant no one could get a clear signal on their cell phones.
Investigative reporters have discovered that the company that owns the bus – one of just three in its entire fleet – had a somewhat spotty safety record. While the Department of Transportation reports that the national average for motor coach inspections resulting in out-of-service actions is 21 percent, this company’s rating was 36 percent. This was in addition to the fact that the company had been flagged on the DOT’s safety watch list, primarily due to ongoing problems with vehicle maintenance.
And yet, the company was still given a safety rating of “satisfactory” by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – which goes to show more improvements are needed in federal oversight.
The FMCSA advises all persons planning bus or motor coach trips to verify the following before purchasing tickets:
- Review the company’s safety performance history;
- Check the company’s FMCSA safety rating, noting that firms with a “conditional” rating could be higher risk and those with an “unsatisfactory” rating shouldn’t even be operating;
- If you’re traveling out of state, make sure the company has federal operating authority and if it carries more than 16 people at a time, make sure it carries a minimum of $5 million worth of insurance.
You may also consider contacting the DOT for more information on a company, and also the Better Business Bureau for consumer satisfaction reviews that could offer further safety insights.
Legal help for bus accident victims may be found with the North Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Death toll rises to 8 in Calif. tour bus crash, Feb. 6, 2013, Staff Report, Associated Press
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Excessive Speed Leads to Three Deaths Near Asheville, Jan. 7, 2013, North Carolina Personal Injury lawyer Blog