Bus strikes pipes on remote interstate, killing 4

Print
Email
|

by Brian Skoloff and Christopher Weber, Associated Press

azfamily.com

Posted on May 21, 2014 at 6:21 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 21 at 6:26 PM

Map: Blythe, California

View larger map

BLYTHE, Calif. (AP) -- A bus rolling through a remote stretch of desert struck a load of metal pipes scattered across a dark California highway Wednesday, then slid down an embankment and overturned in an accident that killed four passengers and seriously injured at least seven others.

Only a minute or two before the collision, the pipes had tumbled from a flatbed truck that jackknifed after drifting into the dirt median on Interstate 10, the main road linking Southern California and Arizona, the California Highway Patrol said.

It was the second serious crash in a month involving a truck and passenger bus in California. In April, a big rig smashed head-on into a charter bus carrying high school students on a university visit, killing 10 people.

Wednesday's crash occurred around 2:15 a.m. just west of Blythe, near the Arizona border, where the eastbound truck's spilled cargo obstructed both lanes in each direction. The truck carried dozens of pipes, some as long as 50 feet. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the interstate remained closed.

The bus was about three-quarters through its 800-mile trip from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles. Authorities believe there were 33 passengers aboard, but they were checking that against the trip manifest. Seven passengers were seriously hurt and taken to hospitals, and 14 others sought evaluation of minor injuries, according to CHP officer Jason Gerard.

Neither driver was hurt.

As the driver of the truck, whose identity was not released, tried to pass slower vehicles in an area with a 70 mph speed limit, he drifted onto the dirt shoulder and lost control, CHP Lt. Cmdr. Gustavo Guzman said.

Other drivers would have struggled to see the pipes until they were in range of a vehicle's headlights. The interstate has no lights, and the night had only a half moon.

Almost immediately, two eastbound passenger vehicles struck the pipes, though nobody was hurt in those crashes, Guzman said.

About a minute later, the bus bore down.

Richard Lee of La Mirada was sleeping in the passenger seat of an SUV that hit the pipes before the bus. He said he woke to two loud pops, got out and soon after saw the lights of what he thought was another truck approaching from the opposite direction.

"When I found out about the casualties I felt very, very lucky that I survived," Lee told KABC-TV.

The truck was operated by VG Transport and based in Rialto, east of Los Angeles. According to federal safety records, VG Transport has not been involved in any crashes reported to state officials over the past two years. Those records say the company has only one truck.

The truck passed three inspections over the past two years. After one of the inspections, a driver was not allowed to finish the trip for reasons that were not immediately clear.

The registration for the 2006 Freightliner expired in January, according to records with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The man listed as the contact for VG Transport, Victor Esteban Galvan, could not be reached for comment. No one picked up at the listed phone number, and the voice mail box was full.

The driver of the bus, operated by El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express Inc., had taken over the route in Phoenix, said Terri Kasinga of California Department of Transportation.

"No one has made any allegations about the bus's maintenance or the bus driver's actions being contributing factors of this accident," company President Jerry Rosenbaum said in a statement.

"Our thoughts, prayers, and unfortunately condolences go out to and for the trucker involved in the accident, occupants of any other vehicles that may have been involved, and most importantly, our passengers and driver," Rosenbaum said.

The bus company received a "satisfactory" safety rating as of its last review in February, according to federal inspection records. Other records kept by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show the company's 55 vehicles have been involved in five crashes since June 2012, one of which involved a single death.

Blythe is a city of about 25,000 people in eastern Riverside County, about 225 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

Signs on I-10 urged drivers to find alternate routes, and authorities were diverting vehicles onto frontage roads, but traffic backed up for several miles on either side of the accident site Wednesday afternoon.

---

Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 

---

Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

--

BLYTHE, Calif. — Authorities say four passengers were killed and at least seven were seriously injured when a passenger bus overturned on Interstate 10 in Southern California early Wednesday after a tractor-trailer spilled a load of steel pipes into lanes.

California Highway Patrol Officer Jason Gerard says three passengers were flown by helicopter and four others were taken by ambulances to hospitals.

He says 14 others were taken by bus to a hospital for evaluation of minor injuries including bumps and bruises.

The driver of the bus was unhurt.

The crash occurred around 2:15 a.m., just west of Blythe near the Arizona border.

The bus, with 32 confirmed passengers, was traveling from El Paso to Los Angeles.

All lanes of the interstate were expected to remain closed until at least Wednesday afternoon.

Drivers should expect long delays as traffic in both directions is detoured onto frontage roads in Blythe to get around the crash on the California side of the border. Also, drivers should expect an extended closure Wednesday morning.

Blythe is about 150 miles -- nearly 2.5 hours -- west of Phoenix.

--

Passengers removed from crashed bus in California

BLYTHE, Calif. (AP) -- Authorities say all passengers have been removed from a bus that crashed in California, killing four people and seriously injuring seven others on Interstate 10 near the Arizona border.

California Highway Patrol Officer Jason Gerard said Wednesday that seven seriously hurt passengers were taken to hospitals, and 14 others sought evaluation of minor injuries such as bumps and bruises.

The crash occurred around 2:15 a.m. when a tractor-trailer spilled its load of steel pipes into all lanes west of Blythe.

The bus, with 32 confirmed passengers, was traveling from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles. The remaining passengers were taken into Blythe to be interviewed by investigators.

All lanes of the interstate remain closed.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A tractor-trailer spilled a load of steel pipes onto a highway, triggering a bus crash Wednesday that killed four people and seriously injured at least seven others on the main road linking Southern California and Arizona, authorities said.

The crash occurred around 2:15 a.m. on Interstate 10, just west of Blythe near the Arizona border, where the eastbound truck jackknifed onto the median and spilled its cargo into all lanes in both directions, according to the California Department of Transportation.

The westbound bus either swerved to avoid the pipes or struck them and overturned, sliding across the shoulder and 50 feet down a slight embankment, Kasinga said. The bus, with 32 confirmed passengers, was traveling from El Paso to Los Angeles.

Four vehicles in the eastbound lanes also crashed, injuring an unknown number of people.

The four fatalities were aboard the bus, said Terri Kasinga of the transportation department.

Seven seriously hurt bus passengers were taken to hospitals, and 14 others sought evaluation of minor injuries such as bumps and bruises, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Jason Gerard.

The driver of the bus was unhurt.

Traffic was backed up for miles in both directions, and drivers were urged to find alternate routes. All lanes of the interstate were to remain closed until at least Wednesday afternoon, Kasinga said.

The bus, operated by El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express Inc., had switched drivers in Phoenix, Kasinga said. It was not known if the driver was among the victims. The company sent smaller charter buses to transport the uninjured passengers.

A message seeking comment from the bus company was not immediately returned.

The highway patrol was investigating.

Blythe is a city of about 25,000 people in eastern Riverside County, about 225 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

--

For more on Arizona highway conditions visit ADOT's Travel Information site at az511.gov or call 511. Updates are also available on the ADOT Twitter feed (@ArizonaDOT) and on Facebook.

Print
Email
|