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Bus firm involved in Sunday fatal accident has questionable vehicle maintenance record

Investigators continue working the scene where at least eight people were killed and 38 people were injured after a tour bus carrying Mexican tourists careened out of control while traveling down a mountain road, struck a car, flipped and plowed into a pickup truck, near Yucaipa, Calif., Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013. (Associated Press: NICK UT)

By TAMI ABDOLLAH
The Associated Press

2/4/2013

YUCAIPA, Calif. — At least eight people were killed and 38 injured Sunday when a tour bus careened out of control while traveling down a Southern California mountain road, struck a car, flipped and plowed into a pickup truck, authorities said.

The accident occurred around 6:30 p.m. about 80 miles east of Los Angeles and left State Route 38 littered with debris, the bus sideways across the two lanes and its front end crushed. Emergency crews worked to free passengers who were trapped in the bus, which was returning to Tijuana, Mexico, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Mario Lopez.

Lettering on the bus indicated that it was operated by Scapadas Magicas LLC, a company based in National City, Calif.

Federal transportation records show that the company is licensed to carry passengers for interstate travel and that it had no crashes in the past two years.

However, the company's Vehicle Maintenance BASIC score of 75.2 exceeds the threshold for intervention by 10.2 points.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website, in the two-year period ending Dec. 14, 2012, the company has incurred 26 vehicle inspections with a total of 59 vehicle maintenance violations, nine of which resulted in out-of-service orders against the vehicle involved.

The company has a vehicle OOS of 35 percent, which exceeds the national average of 20.2 percent.

The violence of the crash and severity of the injuries made for a chaotic scene, and authorities had a difficult time determining how many people were injured or killed. Lopez said at least eight and perhaps 10 were dead, and 38 transported to hospitals.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Monday morning that it was sending a team to inspect the wreck.

California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Profant said the scene was shocking.

"It's really a mess up there with body parts," she said.

The bus driver survived and told investigators the bus suffered brake problems as it headed down the mountain, Lopez said. It rear-ended a sedan and flipped, then struck a pickup truck pulling a trailer.

A call to the company was not immediately returned.

Jordi Garcia, a manager for InterBus Tours, said his company ran Sunday's trip. He told U-T San Diego that 38 people departed Tijuana at 5 a.m. for a day of skiing at Big Bear.

"The information that we have is that the bus' brakes failed and the accident occurred," he said.

Route 38 runs through the San Bernardino National Forest and leads to Big Bear. The accident occurred as the bus was headed south and leaving the forest.

Patients were taken to several area hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening. Among them, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center said it had treated six people, including two women who were discharged early Monday. The hospital said two other women were in critical condition while two other patients were stable.

The California crash comes less than a day after a bus carrying 42 high school students and their chaperones slammed into an overpass in Boston. Massachusetts state police said 35 people were injured and that the driver had directed the bus onto a road with a height limit.

Associated Press writers Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles, and Amanda Kwan and Bob Seavey in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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

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