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Lawsuit Filed in Tour Bus Crash That Killed Eight East of Mentone, Redlands

Guillermina Morales sustained a fractured leg, pelvis and arm, and Pamela Morales sustained a fractured arm, their attorneys said. They were among more than 30 passengers on the bus when it crashed.

Two survivors of the Feb. 3 tour bus crash that killed seven passengers from San Diego and Tijuana and a resident of Mentone on State Route 38 north of Yucaipa filed a lawsuit Friday in San Bernardino.

The mother and daughter are suing the owners of the bus, the company that chartered it, the bus driver, and other employees, agents, owners, joint venturers, managers and directors.

In a complaint for damages dated Feb. 20, attorneys based in San Jose and Santa Ana identified the plaintiffs as Guillermina Morales and her daughter, Pamela Morales, both of Mexico, who were riding the bus on a "vacation getaway" from Tijuana to Big Bear and back.

Guillermina Morales sustained a fractured leg, pelvis and arm, and Pamela Morales sustained a fractured arm, their attorneys said. They were among more than 30 passengers on the bus when it crashed.

They are suing Scapadas Magicas LLC of National City in San Diego County, Interbus Tours and Charters of Tijuana, Mexico, bus driver Norberto B. Perez of San Ysidro, and others, attorneys Fernando Fabela Chavez and Federico C. Sayre said in the complaint.

"Interbus Tours and Charters contracted with Scapadas Magicas to provide transportation to Big Bear, CA," the complaint states. "On the return portion of the trip, the bus driver lost control of the bus.

"The bus careened out of control, stuck a Saturn sedan, crossed the center divider of the roadway, began rolling over while ejecting passengers from the cabin of the bus, and collided and with an oncoming truck before coming to rest in the middle of the road."

Guillermina and Pamela Morales and their attorneys allege that Scapadas Magicas, Interbus Tours and Charters, Perez and others were negligent.

Representatives for the companies and Perez could not be reached to comment for this report.

Interbus owed the plaintiffs "a duty of care to act as a responsible tour operator by providing safe vacation getaways," the complaint states.

Interbus had a duty to take reasonable precautions to ensure its customers would be provided with safe transportation "by, with respect to the transportation companies that it was going to contract, inquiring of the business' safety record, accident record, and record of moving motor vehicle violations, compliance with laws and regulations regarding vehicle maintenance and safety, and the existence of citations and fines by governmental agencies," the complaint states.

Interbus also had a duty to refrain "from contracting with companies that had a poor safety or accident record, an unreasonable amount of moving motor vehicle violations, poor compliance with laws and regulations regarding vehicle maintenance and safety, or excessive citations and fines by governmental agencies," the complaint states.

Interbus failed in these duties by contracting with Scapadas Magicas and failing to inquire about Scapadas Magicas' "safety record, accident record, and record of moving motor vehicle violations," as well as its "compliance with laws and regulations regarding vehicle maintenance and safety, and the existence of citations and fines issued to Scapadas by governmental agencies," the complaint states.

Scapadas failed "to properly maintaining the busses and vehicles comprising its transportation fleet . . . to employ competent and qualified drivers to operate its vehicles . . . violated various laws and regulations . . . to maintain proper business records related to the safety of the bus and other vehicles," and it failed "to implement adequate safety standards and policies to maintain a safety record free from unnecessary accidents and moving motor vehicle violations," the complaint alleges.

Perez owed the plaintiffs "a duty to operate the bus in a safe manner that was consistent with vehicle laws, to maintain control of the vehicle, and to stop the vehicle and obtain assistance once it became obvious that the vehicle was experiencing mechanical difficulties," Guillermina and Pamela Morales and their attorneys allege.

Within days of the Super Bowl Sunday crash, federal officials ordered Scapadas Magicas, the operator of the National City-registered tour bus, to immediately cease operations.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an 11-page out-of-service order and declared Scapadas Magicas "an imminent hazard to public safety" in an announcement on Feb. 8.

The crash occurred shortly after 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3, when the driver of a 1996 VanHool Bus carrying more than 30 people "experienced a loss of control allowing the front end of the bus to strike the rear of a Saturn sedan traveling within the same lane," California Highway Patrol investigators said in a statement.

The bus continued out of control as it approached a curve and veered into the opposing lane where it collided with a blue Ford pickup truck pulling a trailer, traveling uphill, east of Mentone and Redlands.

The fatally injured were later identified by coroner's investigators as Guadalupe Olivas 61, of San Diego, Elvira Garcia Jimenez, 40, of San Diego, Victor Cabrera Garcia, 13, of San Diego, Aleida Adriana Arce Hernandez, 38, of Tijuana, Rubicelia Escobedo Flores, 34, of Tijuana, Mario Garcia Santoyo, 32, of Tijuana, and Liliana Camerina Sanchez Sauceda 24, of Tijuana, all occupants of the bus, and Fred B. Richardson, 72, of Mentone, who was driving the pickup and died at Loma Linda University Medical Center the morning of Feb. 6.

The CHP and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, in addition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, also known as FMCSA.

"After the tragic crash . . . FMCSA investigators quickly inspected this carrier's other two buses which had been operated on U.S. roads, and immediately shut them down," FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said Feb. 8. "Today, we've officially blocked the company from conducting future operations in the United States."

A post-crash investigation by FMCSA inspectors of Scapadas Magicas' two other motorcoaches operating in the U.S. "found serious mechanical safety violations, and those buses were immediately placed out-of-service," federal officials said.

FMCSA investigators found the company failed to ensure its vehicles were systematically inspected, repaired and maintained, Ferro said. Scapadas Magicas also failed to ensure its drivers were properly qualified and licensed, contrary to information provided by company officials in January 2013.

A row of eight small roadside crosses now marks the approximate area where the crash occurred, just north of the Mill Creek Ranger Station. Flowers and ribbons also adorn an oak outside the ranger station, in memory of the crash victims.

Related News:

Deadly SR 38 Crash Prompts National Crackdown on High-Risk Bus Carriers

Tour Bus Crash Claims Local Victim: Fred B. Richardson Was Driving Pickup

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Washy February 25, 2013 at 12:42 AM
Wasn't the final number that died 9? 8 on scene then one in hospital a few days later?

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