Charter crash: 52 injured as charter bus overturns on 210 Freeway; CHP says driver made unsafe lane change (MAP)

Tow trucks are used to remove pieces of a fence damaged during the crash. More than 50 were injured when a charter bus overturned on the 210 East in Irwindale on Thursday morning, Aug. 22.
Tow trucks are used to remove pieces of a fence damaged during the crash. More than 50 were injured when a charter bus overturned on the 210 East in Irwindale on Thursday morning, Aug. 22.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

A charter bus headed to the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in Highland overturned on the 210 Freeway, sending 52 to local hospitals and temporarily closing the freeway Thursday morning. The California Highway Patrol says the cause was the tour bus's driver making an unsafe lane change.

RELATED: DOT: Bus company involved in 210 Freeway crash cited for moving violations

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Update 5:34 p.m. Tour bus operator was among 19 percent of California charter bus companies on federal watch list

Tour bus company Da Zhen Travel Agency, also known as DTA Enterprises, operated the bus that crashed on the 210 Freeway Thursday morning and is one of 70 commercial bus companies in California to have racked up enough safety violations to currently appear on a federal watch list.

The tour bus company had three violations noted during federal inspections over the past two years, as of July 26.

The most recent violation was on May 24 for following too close. The other two were both from Feb. 7 for speeding, with one violation for going between 6 and 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, the other for going between 11 and 14 miles per hour over the speed limit.

The company is one of 370 legally-operating commercial bus companies in California. They’re among the 19 percent on the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration watch list.

The watch list allows for increased inspections, but California Highway Patrol officers say they can’t pull the buses over simply for being on the list.

Read more in KPCC’s database which tracks the safety records of California’s commercial bus companies.

Chris Keller

Update 5:13 p.m. CHP: Tour bus driver made unsafe lane change, causing crash that injured 52

The California Highway Patrol says the driver of a tour bus carrying gamblers to an Indian casino east of Los Angeles made an unsafe lane change, causing a crash that injured more than 50 people on board.

The bus struck a car to its left, overcorrected to the right, and ultimately went through a chain-link fence off the side of Interstate 210 around 10 a.m. Thursday.

The bus came to rest on its side down a dirt embankment between the freeway and railroad tracks in Irwindale, about 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Fifty-two people, mostly elderly, were hurt in the rollover with minor injuries.

The CHP says that at least one passenger reported wearing a seatbelt, which might help account for the lack of life-threatening injuries.


Update 3:09 p.m. Charter bus injuries include senior citizens who only spoke Chinese

After a charter bus crashed Thursday morning on the 210 Freeway, three senior citizens were received at Huntington Memorial Hospital — all of whom only spoke Chinese, hospital spokesman Kevin Andrus tells KPCC.

An 86-year-old man complaining of chest pain was admitted to the intensive care unit with rib fractures and classified as a trauma patient. A 72-year-old woman and a 75-year-old woman had minor injuries. All three were in stable condition, according to Andrus.

Andrus said they had translators on staff that they could call, but that they were fortunate that an oncologist who speaks Chinese fluently happened to be in the emergency department at the time. Andrus said Dr. Kenneth Lam overheard the nurses talking and, realizing the need, stepped in and began translating immediately.

"The most important part, you know, when a patient arrives in an emergency room, is they're obviously very anxious, they don't know what's going on, they know they've been in an accident," Andrus said. "Dr. Lam was able to help calm them immediately so that we could begin to communicate more effectively with them to ensure that we assessed their need and began treatment more quickly."

Andrus said that he had heard that the worst cases were sent to L.A. County/USC Medical Center. Other hospitals were also receiving patients.

— Brian Frank

Update 2:55 p.m. California Highway Patrol investigating tire skids at charter bus accident scene

A California Highway Patrol investigation team was looking at tire skids, trying to determine how fast the bus was going and looking at brakes and mechanical parts of the bus to see if they could get information from those, CHP investigator Steve Taggart told KPCC's Hayley Fox.

The CHP team was looking for physical evidence to determine the cause of the crash, Public Information Officer Rodrigo Jimenez told KPCC.

Many people were being treated when CHP arrived on scene, Jimenez said. The crash happened within the lanes of traffic on the westbound 210, Jimenez said.

"The bus veered off the freeway after that crash and rolled over, and came to a stop near that train track," Jimenez said.

Initial injury estimates that the Los Angeles County Fire Department heard were between 30 and 40, L.A. County Fire Captain Brian Jordan told KPCC.

"We all knew that that's an estimate, so it could be a lot more. So we pumped over 20 units into the incident," Jordan said.

Fire crews wanted to make sure that fuel and oil weren't leaking from the bus, which is why hazardous materials teams were brought in, Jordan said. There was never any fire at the scene, Jordan said.

"We see crashes all the time," CHP's Jimenez said. "It's not always to this magnitude. We are always prepared for something like this. We have our training days where we prepare for an incident like this one."

"We're mapping the scene here," CHP's Taggart said. "So we're going to measure all the evidence that's on the roadway, and then we will incorporate that into a diagram so we have a scene diagram of what the scene looks like today."

CHP is also tasked with cleanup following an accident like this, CHP's Jimenez said.

The temperature also played a role. The blacktop can get up to between 100 and 120 degrees in weather like that at the scene Thursday, L.A. County Fire's Jordan said, so patients were kept away from certain areas and firemen made sure to stay hydrated.

Hayley Fox with KPCC staff

Update 2:18 p.m. 52 taken to hospitals; patients may include bystanders

A total of 52 people were taken to hospitals after a charter bus headed to a local casino rolled over Thursday morning.

"On a bus like this, when it rolls to the side, if people don't have their seatbelts on, people may end up on each other, and that can actually cause an injury, of just somebody actually landing on you," Los Angeles County Fire Captain Brian Jordan told KPCC's Hayley Fox. However, he said that while all of the patients were taken to hospitals, none of them were critical, which could be due to good safety conditions on the bus or because the bus didn't run into another vehicle, Jordan said.

Seven of the patients were flown using three different helicopters to area hospitals, allowing them to get there in 5 or 10 minutes instead of 20 or 30, Jordan said.

Officials earlier though there may be up to 55 patients, but after reconciling their numbers found that there were only 52, Jordan said. Officials were told there were only 50 people on the bus, so the other two could have been bystanders, Jordan said.

Six fire engines, along with several paramedic squads, ambulance squads, search and rescue and hazardous materials teams were all brought in to the scene of the accident, Jordan said.

The cause of the accident is under investigation by CHP, Jordan said.

Hayley Fox with KPCC staff

Update 12:53 p.m. 52 injured in 210 Freeway bus accident; 8 deemed "immediate" injuries

A total of 52 people were injured after a charter bus headed to a casino overturned Thursday morning on the eastbound 210 Freeway near the 605, Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center's Dr. Leo Rodriguez said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

There were eight whose injuries were deemed "immediate," Rodriguez said, but he couldn't say whether those injuries were life-threatening. Five of those patients — three females and two males — were taken to L.A. County/USC Medical Center.

RELATED: KPCC database: Search details of California's commercial bus companies

Those injured ranged in age from 60 to 80 years old, Rodriguez said, with all the patients at L.A. County/USC Medical Center being actively treated and cared for. Rodriguez described the patients' condition as guarded but stable, and said that none of them were currently in surgery, but couldn't say whether any of them would need surgery.

"They were all conscious on arrival," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that there was a language barrier with some of those injured, but that they had staff translators at patients' bedsides.

L.A. County/USC Medical Center is a level 1 trauma center with a 100-bed emergency department, Rodriguez said, and can shift other doctors in the area there if needed, but that they were able to handle this incident without doing so. All of the patience brought to L.A. County/USC Medical Center were brought there by air, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez wasn't able to say whether the patients were from the L.A. area or if they were related. Part of the trauma team that helped stabilize the patients were members of the U.S. Navy there before deploying to Afghanistan, Rodriguez said.

— Mike Roe

Previously: Charter bus overturns on 210 Freeway, injuring dozens

A charter bus overturned on the eastbound 210 Freeway near the 605 Freeway, with an estimated 30 to 40 people injured, California Highway Patrol officer Rick Quintero tells KPCC. Los Angeles County fire officials say 50 people have been injured, the Associated Press reports.

"The preliminary assessment was that most of those injuries were minor injuries, and they were transported to local hospitals," Quintero said.

However, Fire Department supervisor Bryan Webb tells the AP that five of the injured were flown by helicopters to a trauma center. Four people were taken from the crash site to L.A. County + USC Medical Center, the hospital tells KPCC, while two were taken to East Valley Hospital Medical Center, the hospital's chief nursing officer Mary Anne Bennett tells KPCC, with the medical center told to expect two more.

All westbound lanes of the 210 have reopened, Quintero said, and the carpool lane on the eastbound 210 is also open. The accident happened just after 10 a.m., according to Quintero. The bus went off the west side of the 210 and ended up on its side between the freeway and railroad tracks, according to the AP.

Quintero couldn't say whether other vehicles were involved as the investigation was still preliminary, and also couldn't say what caused the accident, but said that witnesses were being spoken with.

Da Zhen Travel Agency, also known as DTA Enterprises, confirmed to KPCC that the bus was theirs and was headed to San Bernardino. According to the AP, the bus was heading to the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in Highland, about 40 miles east of the crash site near the L.A. suburbs of Duarte and Irwindale.

Da Zhen is based in Monterey Park. According to a Department of Transportation report, there were previous concerns with the company for unsafe driving.

This map shows the crash site:

View 210 Freeway bus crash, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 in a larger map