Tour bus crash kills at least 8, injures dozens

YUCAIPA, Calif. — A crash Sunday night involving a chartered tour bus from Tijuana and two other vehicles on Highway 38, near Mentone in San Bernardino County, killed at least eight people and injured dozens more, authorities said.

Fatal bus crashThe crash on Highway 38 — called Mill Creek Road by area residents — near Bryant Street in the San Bernardino Forest was reported at 6:34 p.m., according to San Bernardino County Fire Department spokesman Eric Sherwin.

The tour bus — owned by National City-based Scapadas Magicas and operated by Tijuana-based InterBus Tours — apparently hit two other vehicles and rolled over, fire department Battalion Chief Ronald Walls said in a broadcast report.

Walls said a “Ford Explorer” type of vehicle hauling a trailer was one of the vehicles struck, along with a smaller sedan.

Later reports said the bus ran into the back of the sedan, overturned and plowed into the vehicle with the trailer.

In all, 43 people were involved in the crash, 38 passengers and the driver on the bus and two each in the other vehicles, Walls said.

A triage area was set up to treat critically injured people at the scene, authorities said.

The bus apparently was taking tourists from Tijuana home following a trip to Big Bear that included snowboarding, Caltrans official Terri Kasinga said in television interview.

Kasinga said a representative of the Mexican consulate also was at the scene.

Sherwin told City News Service the injury total included “multiple fatalities.”

“I don’t have a firm death total yet and those injured range from minor to life-threatening.” Sherwin said.

At least 15 people were taken to hospitals in need of immediate treatment and seven were hospitalized with less serious injuries, Walls said.

A number of the fatally and critically injured people were thrown from the bus as it overturned, authorities said.

Witness Betty Harvey — a local resident who was driving behind the bus – – said in a broadcast report that the bus was moving slowly down Highway 38 from Big Bear with a line of cars behind it as the bus driver avoided using turnouts to let other vehicles by.

She eventually drove by the bus on a two-lane passing area, Harvey said.

Not long after, Harvey said, the bus appeared behind her at a rate of speed that made her think it was having brake trouble and she pulled over to let it pass.

“I saw headlights in my rearview mirror and I just pulled over to the side of the road,” she said.

Within minutes, she came upon the bus crash scene, Harvey said.

“People were waving and screaming,” she said. “It was quite horrific.”

InterBus official Jodi Garcia told the U-T that initial examinations point to brake failure as the cause of the crash.

“The information that we have is that the buses’ brakes failed and the accident occurred,” Garcia said.

Sherwin said some people were trapped inside the overturned bus and had to be extricated by emergency personnel.

The location of the accident and the fact there were so many injuries made the rescue operation “very difficult,” he said.

It was too early in the investigation to know if impaired driving played a role in the deadly crash, Sherwin said.

Highway 38 — one of three access roads to Big Bear — will be closed from Forest Falls to Mentone for at least 24 hours, according to authorities.

9 comments

  • Guest

    Time For California to Ban Buses and other dangerous vehicles that can hold more than 7 people.
    Ban High Capacity Buses, do it for the senior citizens.

  • Ivan

    I drive for a charter bus company. Bus crashes, while getting a lot of notice, are rare compaired to the amount of miles driven, or the amount of traffic deaths from car crashes. At the end of this week tally of the amount of California deaths from car crashes, and the amount of deaths from all bus crashes nation wide, and see which number is higher.

  • sue

    Truly, truly a tragical event! So sad when u leave ur home and looking forward to a wonderful day ..then something like this. My heart hurts for those in pain from their loss. Thanks Matt for ur report I know that u will stay on top of this story..to keep us out here informed..

  • Sharona61bio

    Having been through CDL school, it appears to me that the driver may have burned his brakes out. This is a common hazard with large vehicles with air brakes especially on downgrades. My heart goes out to the victims and family. So tragic.

  • Annie

    I don't know how long it's going to take for the Department of Transportation to DEMAND seat belts on all tour buses. I'm a tour escort for one of the local senior citizen centers and only ONCE have we been provided a bus with seat belts. It's about time the law changes. They cost relatively little and should be mandatory for fast moving coach buses. In this case, it sounds like the driver was not experienced in mountain driving, nor was it wise coming down that twisting 2-lane road in the dark in such a large vehicle even though the weather was clear and the road dry.

Comments are closed.