National & World News

NTSB investigates bus crash

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. – On the second day of its investigation into Sunday’s deadly tour bus crash in Yucaipa, the National Transportation Safety Board split up into teams.

One team will examine the interior of the bus and another will go to the bus company’s offices in National City to interview the owner and one of the mechanics.

“Also collecting paperwork on the company – their operating procedures and the driver qualification file as well,” said Robert Accetta, the lead investigator.

Firefighters work Monday morning on the wreckage of a bus that crashed on California  38 just north of Yucaipa. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.)

Firefighters work Monday morning on the wreckage of a bus that crashed on California 38 just north of Yucaipa. (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.)

The NTSB said the CHP conducted a follow-up interview Tuesday with the driver, 52 year-old Norberto Perez of San Ysidro, who told authorities there were brake problems on the bus before it collided with two other vehicles and flipped.

The bus was returning to Tijuana after a day trip to Big Bear. Three San Diegans were among the seven killed in the crash.  Guadalupe Olivas, 61, her daughter 40-year-old Elvira Garcia Jimenez and her son 13-year-old Victor Cabrera Garcia.

A relative told Fox 5 News a fourth family member survived and later described what he heard just before the crash.

“As they were going down the hill, suddenly the bus driver is saying ‘we lost the breaks, but everything’s going to be OK,’” said Michael Guluster, a Chula Vista resident.

Investigators want to pinpoint where troubles started on the road.  Some passengers say they smelled burning brakes for miles.

“That is possible, but we do not know for a fact at this time,” said Accetta.

Government records show, in terms of maintenance issues, the bus company scored worse than 75 percent of other U.S. bus companies, with dozens of safety violations.

There are questions whether the 1996 bus had old or outdated equipment.

“We have yet to determine that.  That will come out in the mechanical inspection which we have not had the opportunity to do yet,” Accetta said.

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