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Big rig driver to face charges in Riverside in fatal casino bus crash

FILE: Workers prepare to haul away a tour bus that crashed with semi-truck on Interstate 10 just west of the Indian Canyon Drive off-ramp, in Desert Hot Springs, near Palm Springs, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Rodrigo Pena/AP

A Georgia big rig driver partially blamed in the fatal crash of a casino bus last year near Palm Springs that killed 13 will be extradited to Riverside to face charges in coming weeks. 

The crash happened around 5 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2016 as a tour bus returned to Los Angeles from an all-night trip to the Red Earth Casino near the Salton Sea.

The bus slammed full speed into a big rig that had stopped because of road construction, killing the bus driver and 12 passengers on board. Thirty-one others were injured.

A year-long investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the drivers of both the bus and the big rig were dangerously fatigued from lack of sleep.

Although officials found the bus driver mostly at fault, they said the driver of the big rig may have fallen asleep while he was stopped. They also say he falsified his driving logs and had not met federal rest requirements in the days and weeks leading to the crash.

The truck driver, Bruce Guilford, faces multiple charges, including 13 counts of vehicular manslaughter.

Caltrans was also faulted in part for the crash. NTSB investigators found its management of the construction scene lacked both adequate signage and officers on scene to safely stop traffic. Caltrans has since changed its policy to address the issues.

As KPCC reported last year, the casino bus driver, Teodulo Elias Vides, was seen several times falling asleep at the wheel as he drove passengers on the tours. One passenger said she stopped riding with him as a result. 

Families of victims have filed several lawsuits against the tour bus company, USA Holiday, the bus manufacturer, and the agencies and jurisdictions responsible for the construction stop.

Federal investigators have called on regulators to review the current safety rules on fatigue, including such requirements as how much rest is required before long trips and how driver performance affects safety ratings.

This December all commercial drivers will be required to use digital driving logs to prevent tampering with their rest hours.

But some stricter safety measures have been rolled back in recent years and months, including a requirement that drivers rest overnight before resetting their weekly hours and mandatory screening of drivers for sleep apnea, which can cause drowsiness.

Safety advocates are pushing for more technology in vehicles like automatic braking systems and eye monitors that alert drivers if they start to drift off.