Thirteen people were killed and 31 injured on October 23 when a tour bus hit the back of a large truck near Palm Springs. The bus originated in Los Angeles, and it is believed that most of the passengers were from the Los Angeles area.
The crash is one of the deadliest in California since a 1963 accident near Chualar. That collision, involving a flatbed truck transporting Mexican farm workers and a freight train, killed 32 people.
The accident occurred on the 10 Freeway in Desert Hot Springs during the predawn hours. Most of the passengers were asleep. They had been at a casino near Thermal, close to the Salton Sea.
The bus in which the victims were riding hit the rear end of the truck’s trailer, nearly destroying the front of the bus and severely impacting the first third of it. The Los Angeles Times noted that most of the fatalities were sitting near the front of the bus.
Given the damage to the bus, authorities noted that it might have been going much faster than the truck. However, officials noted that an investigation is pending and it is not known whether the bus driver was going over the speed limit.
Early indications were that the driver died in the crash. Although California Highway Patrol (CHP) authorities have not identified the driver, neighbors in Alhambra gave his name as Elias Vides.
The damaged vehicle was a USA Holiday tour bus. It did not have seat belts. USA Holiday is based in Alhambra and owns a single bus and has one driver.
CHP Border Division Chief Jim Abele said, “In almost 35 years, I’ve never been to a crash where there’s been 13 confirmed fatals. It’s tough … you never get used to this.”
Injured taken to nearby hospitals
Five of the injured were in critical condition.
Because of the lack of seat belts, some of the injured received facial injuries with soft tissue and bone injury involvement. Some may need plastic surgery as a result of their injuries, according to Dr. Ricard Townsend at Desert Regional Medical Center, where some of the injured were taken.
Other passengers were brought to area hospitals with noncritical injuries, including cuts, abrasions, and neck pain.
Many of the victims were Spanish-speaking. Local hospitals brought in healthcare personnel who spoke Spanish to help in the patients’ care.
Federal investigation begins
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were slated to arrive in the area on Monday to help with the ongoing investigation. They will look at causal factors, including whether the early morning hours meant the driver feel asleep, whether he was under the influence of substances, or had a medical emergency such as a heart attack. They also explore the possibility of mechanical problems with the bus.
Officials indicated they hope to find a data recorder to determine the bus’s speed and driver actions before the crash, such as braking. However, since the bus is 20 years old, they cautioned that it may not have had a data recorder on board.
Personal injury law firm serving Los Angeles
The Salamati Law Firm continues to follow investigations into the cause of this fatal accident, and our Southern California car accident attorneys extend their sincere condolences to those who were harmed or lost a loved one. To learn more about our legal services or to request a free consultation with a member of our firm, please call our Los Angeles office at 888-259-4060.