Update 5:22 p.m.: Bus company has checkered safety record
The tour bus that crashed on a Southern California freeway Monday was operated by Travel Tours Americas International, based in Hacienda Heights. The company's safety record had already raised red flags at the California Highway Patrol.
Drivers for the company were pulled over for inspections 17 times over the past two years. On two occasions this year, drivers were cited for violations so egregious that they were immediately taken off the road, according to federal records reviewed by KPCC.
In June, a driver was removed in Wyoming because he or she didn’t speak any English. In May, a driver was pulled off the road, because he or she falsified the vehicle’s log. Drivers are required to keep track of how many hours they’re on the road.
The company has also received six citations for vehicle maintenance problems since last May.
Henry Jasny, Vice-President at the Washington-based group, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said the number of violations is troubling, because they hint at bigger problems at the carrier.
“If they’re not observing the rules, they have a greater likelihood of being at risk for a crash,” said Jasny. “Not all the rules are enforced just because they’re terribly unsafe and in imminent danger, but because they’re sloppy and they’re not attentive to detail.”
Despite numerous violations, the company received a “satisfactory” rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency responsible for regulating interstate motor coaches.
Jasny says that’s because with limited resources, FMCSA has chosen to focus on only the most unsafe companies.
“Their system is looking at the worst offenders and trying to do something about them, and giving a pass to everyone else who isn’t so bad,” said Jasny.
FMCSA gave the company a score of 51.2 percent, meaning that it’s squarely in the middle of the 4,000 U.S. bus operators in terms of safety violations.
Monday was the company’s first crash in at least the last two years.
The California Highway Patrol says the bus was returning from Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio and heading to Eagle Rock when the bus struck a storm ditch, light post and a chain link fence and ended up on its side as it exited Baldwin Park Blvd off ramp.
Preliminary reports suggest the driver of the tour bus may have been speeding when it crashed into the pole. Los Angeles County Fire transported 13 adults to various local hospitals, and all but two had minor injuries.
The drive of the bus has not been arrested at this time, according to law enforcement.
FMCSA just completed an eight month crackdown on motor coach companies nationwide and shut down four bus companies in California.
6:55 a.m.: 13 hurt as tour bus crashes on California I-10 freeway
A tour bus heading back from a Southern California casino crashed on a freeway east of Los Angeles early Monday, injuring 13 people, authorities said.
The bus went off the shoulder of an Interstate 10 off-ramp in Baldwin Park shortly after 4:30 a.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Christian Cracraft told the Associated Press.
CHP Officer Rodrigo Jimenez told KPCC media partner NBC4 that the driver lost control, hit a chain-link fence, and the bus ended up in a drainage ditch, but did not turn over. He said speed appears to be a factor.
"That's what preliminary investigations are showing is that it seems he might have been going a little bit too fast for the off ramp," Jimenez told NBC4.
Officer Jimenez said the driver and about 40 passengers were trapped inside for about an hour. AP noted they were briefly trapped by a blocked door before rescuers freed them.
Eleven people received minor injuries. Two sustained more serious injuries, the Los Angeles County Fire Department told KCBS-TV reported.
KNX-Am reported that one person had a broken arm.
The bus was returning from the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio and the freeway remained open.
The accident came four days after three bus crashes on rain-slick Southern California freeways killed two people and injured dozens more.
Khang Tieu of Midway City, 91, died Thursday night, eight hours after a bus returning from a San Diego County casino overturned on Interstate 15 in Corona.
Some two dozen people were hurt. The CHP said the bus was doing 65 mph — an unsafe speed for the rain-slick roadway.
At about the same time as that crash but about 50 miles away, a bus heading to another San Diego County casino overturned on the freeway near Fallbrook.
Tayde Murguia, 64, of Los Angeles was killed and 19 others were hurt.
At least 14 people were hurt Thursday morning near Perris in Riverside County. A county Riverside Transit Agency bus on State Route 74 slid sideways and hit a car traveling in the opposite direction, which then was hit by a tow truck, the CHP said.
Following a probe into fatal tour bus crashes, including one last February in Yucaipa, the National Transportation Safety Board reported in November that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration failed to properly inspect the vehicles before fatal crashes in five cities across three states, including Yucaipa, California.
Correction: The headline on an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the crash occurred in Baldwin Hills. It took place in Baldwin Park. KPCC regrets the error.