No evidence of bus braking before crash that killed 13, CHP says

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The driver at the wheel of a tour bus that crashed into a big rig on the 10 Freeway in Desert Hot Springs was identified Monday, along with 11 others among the 13 total victims killed. The driver appears not to have braked before the crash, according to CHP.

Teodulo Elias Vides, 59, of Los Angeles, was driving the 1996 MCI motor coach when it slammed into the back of a big rig in slowing traffic in westbound lanes about 5:17 a.m. Sunday, authorities said.

Vides was also the owner of the company, Alhambra-based USA Holiday, that operated the bus, according to the Los Angeles Times. He had previously been sued at least twice for negligence, including over a crash that left three people dead, the newspaper reported.

There were no skid marks from the bus leading to the crash site, and no evidence of braking, California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Jim Abele said at a Monday afternoon news conference in Indio.

"At this stage in the game, we have no definitive say-so in terms of what the cause was," Abele said.

In addition to Vides, the victims of Sunday's crash were identified as:

  • Isabel Jimenez Hernandez, 66, of Los Angeles
  • Rosa Ruiz, 53, of Los Angeles
  • Gustavo Green, 62, Los Angeles
  • Zoila Aguilera, 72, of Los Angeles
  • Milagros Gonzales, 72, of Los Angeles
  • Concepcion Corvera, 57, of Palmdale
  • Aracely Tije, 63, of Los Angeles
  • Dora Galvez de Rodriguez, 69, of Los Angeles
  • Elvia Sanchez, 52, of Los Angeles
  • Ana Gomes de Magallon, 71, of Los Angeles
  • Yolanda Mendoza, 69, of Los Angeles

The final victim has been identified, but his name was not being released until family can be notified, Abele said. Mendoza's name was added to a list that was released earlier Monday morning.

The crash occurred just west of the Indian Canyon Road exit on the westbound side of the 10 Freeway. A tour bus carrying 43 passengers, most of them asleep, struck the back of a big rig in the No. 3 lane as traffic was slowing due to road maintenance work.

"The speed of the bus was so significant that when it hit the back of the big-rig, the trailer itself entered about 15 feet into the bus," Abele said Sunday afternoon.

The drivers' records and training will be investigated, along with any possible medical conditions or other impairment, including fatigue and distracting circumstances, Earl Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday.

The record of both companies involved will also be reviewed.

Investigators have not yet determined if the bus had a data recorder on board, Weener said.

The bus was returning to Los Angeles from the Red Earth Casino near the Salton Sea. Abele said Vides was likely inside the casino along with the passengers prior to the crash.

The relationship between the USA Holiday and the casino is not yet known, Abele said.

The crash left 31 people injured. They were taken to three different hospitals following the crash, with four patients listed in critical condition.

The big-rig driver suffered only minor injuries.

Authorities initially said there were 44 occupants on the bus but on Monday corrected that to 43.

Any witnesses who have not already spoken to CHP are asked to call the agency at 760-772-8900.

Sunday's crash is among the deadliest in California in decades.

Ten people were killed in April 2014 when a FedEx tractor-trailer crossed a median on Interstate 5 north of Sacramento and slammed into a bus carrying high school students from Los Angeles on their way to visit a college campus.