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Bus firm involved in crash Saturday subject of March CR

Seven Happiness Tour & Charter has Unsafe Driving and Hours of Service Complinace CSA scores above the threshold for intervention. (The Trucker file photo)

The Trucker News Services

4/15/2013

SAN FRANCISCO  — The company that operated a tour bus carrying visitors from Yosemite National Park that crashed Saturday night and was traveling at what police said was an unsafe speed when the driver lost control, was the subject of a compliance review March 6, according to federal records.

The bus, operated by Seven Happiness Tour & Charter, crashed on a mountain road, leaving 16 people injured, the California Highway Patrol said Sunday.

The crash was the second bus accident in two days. A chartered bus headed for an Oklahoma casino crash near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport Thursday, killing two and injuring scores.

The Seven Happiness Tour & Charter bus was about six miles outside of the south entrance of the park when it went off Highway 41, a winding mountain road, and crashed about 6 p.m. Saturday. It came to a stop when it hit a tree, CHP Officer Scott Jobinger said.

Fifteen passengers and a tour guide suffered minor to moderate injuries.

“At this point the cause was the bus was traveling at unsafe speed and went off the road,” Jobinger said. He said the accident remained under investigation to determine if other factors played a role.

Records on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website do not show the reason for the compliance review, the carrier’s third compliance review since May 2010, but the carriers CSA scores in Unsafe Driving and Hours of Service Compliance both exceed the threshold for intervention.

Ironically, on the day of the compliance review, one of the company’s drivers was put out-of-service for failing to retain the previous seven days of logs.

Compliance reviews are part of the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS), launched in December 2010, a tool used by FMCSA and its state commercial vehicle enforcement partners to prioritize carriers for random roadside inspections and compliance reviews.

Seven Happiness Tour & Charter has not been involved in any crashes during the past 24 months, FMCSA records show, nor does the website show any safety rating for the carrier.

CHP Sgt. Edward Greene told the Fresno Bee that the impact of the crash caused several passengers to be thrown to the driver's side of the bus, with the bus stopping when it hit the tree.

“If the tree wasn't there to stop the bus, it would have continued down the ravine,” Greene said.

The 15 injured passengers, described as mostly elderly, and a tour guide were taken to local hospitals for treatment.

Four of the injured were treated at Community Regional Medical Center, and four were treated at Clovis Community Medical Center, said Jennifer Avila-Allen, a spokeswoman for the hospitals. All but one at Community Regional had been released, she said. The conditions of the others, taken to a different hospital, were not known. It was not known if all of the injured were hurt seriously enough to be admitted for treatment, Jobinger said.

The bus was towed to an impound yard where it will be inspected to see if any mechanical problems may have contributed to the crash.

The bus driver, identified as Changefeng Liu, 49, of Fremont, Calif., was the only person on the bus who was not hurt. He has not been arrested, and alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash.

Investigators have not determined the exact speed of the bus at the time it went off the roadway, but the scenic highway has sharp curves where the speed limits drop to 35 miles per hour, Jobinger said.

Seven Happiness Tour & Charter is a Burlingame, Calif.-based company that specializes in providing tours to the Chinese-American community, said Charles Wu, who works at the company and answered the phone at its headquarters Sunday. He said the owner would not be available to comment until Monday.

“Most of them [passengers] were Chinese people from the Bay Area,” Wu said.

Wu said he had not talked to the bus driver since the crash and had few details about the incident, but said Liu had worked for the company for about six years.

Liu could not be reached for comment.

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

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