Two Bus Crashes Capture National Attention

February 12, 2013

1008849_bus_interior.jpgBus accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins report of two recent crashes involving large buses, both of which are now subject to investigations. One crash took place in California and killed eight people, and the other, which occurred near Boston, injured more than 30 passengers.

The California bus crash took place on Highway 38 near Yucaipa on Feb. 3, 2013. The bus, operated by Scapadas Magicas, LLC, was transporting skiers and snowboarders from Tijuana to Big Bear for a day trip. As the bus staggered down the steep mountainous roads of the San Bernardino National Forest, the driver ultimately lost control, struck a sedan, flipped over, and slammed into a pickup truck and its trailer. Six passengers were pronounced dead at the scene, and two died in the hospital a few days later.

Three separate investigations are being conducted into the crash, by the California Highway Patrol, National Transportation Safety Board, and Federal Carrier Safety Administration. Mechanical inspections of the bus have not yet begun, although investigators are zeroing in on the bus' brake system as a potential cause. The investigations could take months, as officials gather relevant information regarding possible driver error or fatigue, road conditions, bus maintenance history, and interviews with Scapadas management and employees.

The driver of the bus, which was manufactured in 1996, told investigators that the brakes completely failed in the moments before the crash and pointed to a history of brake maintenance issues. Investigators took a blood sample from the driver to determine whether any substances played a role in the crash. Government records highlight 22 separate safety violations from Scapadas inspections last year, including brake and tire problems.

The Boston accident occurred the same weekend, on Feb. 2, 2013The bus was carrying a group of Philadelphia-area high school students and chaperones on a visit to Harvard and Cambridge Universities. The vehicle was operated by a 66-year-old driver, an employee of the Calvary Coach Bus Company. The driver and his 42 passengers were on their way home on Soldier Field Road when the driver was distracted his GPS, missing signs warning of a low overpass. The over-sized tour bus was not authorized to be traveling on Soldier Field Road, but the driver did not see warning signs as he tried to operate his GPS. He saw the overpass too late, and crashed into the Western Avenue Bridge and guard rails Saturday night.

In total, 35 people were injured in the crash and seven were hospitalized. At least three victims will have to remain in Boston hospitals for an extended period of time. Some passengers were trapped inside the bus for over an hour as emergency rescue teams attempted to free them. The students are members of a nonprofit group called Destined for a Dream Foundation, which helps underprivileged youth. A disaster mental health team was implemented to assist victims and their families who have to stay in Boston.

There is significant damage to the bus from hitting the overpass and from extracting the trapped passengers. Authorities are currently investigating whether or not the driver will be charged for the accident. Calvary Coach apologized for the crash and defended the actions of the driver. The Boston Globe reports that crashes of this type on Soldier Field Road were a weekly event for a number of years, before rubber signs were put in place at overpass level to warn drivers of over-sized vehicles. A Massachusetts state investigation is being conducted into the crash, with results expected in two to six weeks.

Bus accident lawyers stress that high-occupancy vehicle crashes typically cause significant damages, injuries and fatalities. If you or someone you love was seriously injured or killed in a bus accident, the bus company or individual driver may be held liable, and you may be entitled to compensation.