In the wake of the Feb. 3 tour bus crash on State Route 38 below the San Bernardino Mountains that killed eight people, federal officials will undertake a safety crackdown on high-risk motorcoach companies, the Department of Transportation announced Thursday.
A week ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered Scapadas Magicas LLC, the operator of the National City-registered tour bus that crashed, to immediately cease operations.
The crash occurred shortly after 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3, when the driver of a 1996 VanHool Bus with more than 30 passengers lost control and crashed with two other vehicles, killing three from San Diego, four from Tijuana, and a Mentone resident, coroner's officials said.
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.
Inspectors and auditors "will undergo specialized training aimed at investigating key areas of operations at motorcoach companies deemed to be high risk carriers," Department of Transportation officials sad in a news release.
"The first wave of a national safety sweep will be carried out over the next two months by FMCSA safety personnel who will coordinate with state law enforcement partners on targeted bus company and vehicle inspections," federal officials said.
In addition to the State Route 38 crash, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Anne Ferro of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cited a Dec. 30 tour bus crash in Oregon that killed nine.
A Vancouver-based company, Mi Joo Tour & Travel Ltd., was barred by federal transportation officials from operating in the United States.
State and local police being urged to immediately step up law enforcement on motorcoach drivers who speed, follow too closely, text while driving, use handheld cell phones, drive while impaired, and make unsafe lane changes, federal officials said.
As part of the federal effort to make safety data available to the public, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced the SaferBus mobile app will be available for the first time on Google Play. The SaferBus app was first released last year for iPhone and iPad users.
Consumers and whistleblowers can report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver through a toll free hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238), on the federal consumer complaint website: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/HomePage.asp.
Tour Bus Crash Claims Local Victim: Fred B. Richardson Was Driving Pickup