SAN DIEGO – The federal government ordered a National City tour bus company involved in a mass-casualty collision near Big Bear last weekend to cease operations immediately, declaring the carrier a hazard to public safety.
Eight people, including three from San Diego, were fatally injured and dozens of others hurt when a passenger coach operated by Scapadas Magicas LLC crashed into two other vehicles and overturned on Highway 38 in Mentone last Sunday evening, according to the California Highway Patrol and San Bernardino County coroner’s officials.
Friday’s decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits the small bus company from operating in the United States any longer.
“Safety is our number-one priority, and we will not tolerate unsafe bus companies on our nation’s roads,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “We will not allow safety to be compromised.”
A post-crash investigation by federal inspectors of Scapadas Magicas’ two other motor coaches found serious mechanical safety violations, and those buses were immediately taken out of service, according to federal officials.
Investigators also found that the carrier had failed to ensure that its vehicles were systematically inspected, repaired and maintained, and that its drivers were properly qualified and licensed, contrary to information provided by the company as recently as last month, according to the FMCSA officials.
Among those killed in the wreck were San Diego residents Victor Cabrera Garcia, 13, Elvira Garcia Jimenez, 40, and Guadalupe Olivas, 61.
The driver of one of the vehicles struck by the out-of-control bus succumbed to his injuries in a hospital on Wednesday.
In all, 43 people were involved in the crash — 38 passengers and the driver on the bus, and two each in the other vehicles. A triage area was set up to treat the patients at the scene before they were taken to hospitals, some with life-threatening injuries.
Initial evidence suggested that the brakes on the tour coach gave out, according to an official with InterBus, a Baja California tour company that had leased the vehicle from Scapadas Magicas.