MERCED: Did Driver Attempt to Pass Car Prior to Deadly Highway 99 Crash?
Was the Bus Run Off the Road? Was the Driver Sleepy? Investigators Piece Together Witness Accounts
ATWATER, California (August 3, 2016) — The initial investigation into the cause of a deadly tour bus collision with a freeway sign is underway as investigators try to piece together witness accounts and evidence.
The fatal crash took place on the northbound State Route Highway 99 near Livingston, California.
UPDATE: Two of the victims have been identified as Fernando Acosta-Ramirez and Petra Carrillo, who both lived in Nayarit, Mexico. They were aboard the bus with their 12-year-old Jennifer Rivera.
The tour bus veered off the highway and into a a sturdy Hammatt Avenue exit sign pole, slicing the vehicle almost completely in half. Four people died and 18 others suffered injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to severed limbs. Some of the passengers were thrown out of the bus completely, others remained trapped for hours inside the bus and about eight others suffered virtually no injuries.
Surviving passenger, Nakia Coleman, 40, told the Los Angeles Times that the sign pole was about two feet from her when the bus came to a rest after the crash. A deceased man’s body was also pushed on top of her, but she managed to get herself out of the bus.
Leonardo Sanchez, who was traveling to Oregon to work, told the Times he struck the seat in front of him, but also managed to get out as he feared the vehicle would go up in flames.
The horrific crash took place early Tuesday morning when witnesses aboard the bus say the driver attempted to pass another motorist, but that driver would not let the bus over, police say. The allegation is under investigation at this time.
Family members have also disclosed in the Times article that the bus driver had been working 7-day weeks, long hours and possibly had only a few hours sleep at the time of the crash.
So far police investigating the crash have determined there were no brake marks on the freeway indicating that the bus crashed into the sign post at full speed.
The tour bus is operated by Autobuses Coordinados USA and was traveling from Mexico to Washington, but it was near the small farming town of Livingston where there was a planned stop to change drivers, according to news reports.
The bus driver, identified as Mario David Vasquez, 57, of Los Angeles, was seriously injured in the collision and has not been interviewed by police yet.
The investigation into this tragedy could take months as evidence and witness accounts are pieced together. The liability for the collision will ultimately be determined and thus anyone having a claim against the responsible party may be compensated for their losses.
At this time, it’s important that those hurt receive the best medical care available to provide a full recovery.
Those who have been injured or have lost a loved one in this tragedy may now begin to take steps to file a wrongful death claim by contacting an California accident attorney at 800-235-6801. There is no cost to speak with the attorney as all initial consultations are free and there are also no fees unless a settlement is obtained.
Johnson Attorneys Group is a California bus accident law firm with offices throughout California to best serve you and your family.