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FMCSA puts driver involved in fatal bus crash, companion driver out-of-service

A Mi Joo Tour & Travel bus lies at the bottom of a hill after it ran off the highway Dec. 30, 2012, near Pendelton, Ore., killing nine. The driver of the bus has been put out-of-service by the FMCSA. (Associated Press)

The Trucker News Services

1/18/2013

WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put out of service the driver of a Canadian bus that crashed in Oregon Dec. 30 killing nine and injuring 39 others.

Haeng Kyu (James) Hwang was driving a Mi Joo Tour & Travel bus returning to Vancouver, British Columbia, on the final leg of a nine-day tour of the western United States. The trip was organized by a British Columbia travel agency to carry tourists traveling in small groups. Most of the passengers were Korean.

The FMCSA also put out of service Choong Yurl Choi, who was driving a second bus that was part of the tour.

On Jan. 8, the FMCSA ordered Mi Joo Tour & Travel to cease U.S. operations and revoked the company’s authority to provide passenger service within the United States.

Shortly after the FMCSA took its action, the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation announced that it had suspended the carrier’s authority to operate in Canada following a safety audit by the Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement (CVSE) branch.

"The audit findings revealed that the company was not meeting its administrative obligations under B.C. law regarding driver Hours of Service and pre-trip inspections," said a statement released by B.C.'s Transportation Ministry.

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In placing the drivers out-of-service, the FMCSA said both drivers had been found to have been driving well beyond the 70-hour maximum hours of service within an eight-day period as permitted under federal regulations.

Published reports at the time of the crash quoted U.S. investigators as alleging the carrier had allowed Hwang to work for 92 hours in the eight days leading up to the crash.

The FMCSA investigation also found that on the day of the crash, both bus drivers had engaged in unsafe driving behavior, including operating a commercial passenger vehicle at speeds too fast for existing road conditions.  Each driver holds a commercial driver’s license issued by the province of British Columbia, Canada.

At or around the time of the crash, various witnesses observed that both drivers were driving too fast for the wintry conditions on a mountain roadway and in an unsafe manner likely to cause a crash, which in fact occurred.

“Such actions establish an imminently hazardous and potentially deadly situation for the drivers, passengers and the motoring public,” the FMCSA said.

Since the crash of a tour bus in New York in March 2011 that killed 15, the FMCSA has cracked down hard on tour bus companies that exhibit unsafe characteristics.

Since that crash, the agency has put 50 bus companies out of service.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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