Officials told The Washington Post that the bus collided with a tractor-trailer truck that was traveling on the interstate going approximately 5 mph. The bus, which was going much, much faster, slammed into the rear of the truck with such force that the entire front of the bus became enmeshed in the trailer of the truck – a full 15 feet into the back of the rig. Authorities report a total of 13 people were killed and another 31 were seriously injured and taken to area hospitals – all adults with injuries ranging from minor to critical. Of those 13 who lost their lives, 10 were women. One of the three men killed was the driver of the bus.
Now, The Los Angeles Times reports so far two of those families have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the bus company that was chartered to bring them safely home from an L.A. casino. Plaintiffs allege the bus company, USA Holiday, and the driver personally failed to:
- Travel at a safe speed;
- Brake to avoid a crash;
- Properly maintain the bus.
The driver of the bus reportedly owned the company, which was operated out of his personal dwelling – which is somewhat unusual for charter bus companies.
Preliminary results of an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicate the bus failed to comply with vehicle safety standards, with two of its eight tires not having sufficient tire tread to be considered safe. The federal investigation of the collision continues. Simultaneously, wrongful death lawyers are conducting their own independent investigations of the incident and have been querying witnesses about what exactly occurred in an effort to gather information pertinent to current or future claims.
Some of the attorneys spoke to the Times, indicating the early results of the investigation suggest what we already had a strong inkling of before: The commercial bus industry is poorly regulated. Consumers purchase a bus ticket with the assumption that there is sufficient oversight of carriers, vehicles and drivers. Too often, we’re finding out that simply isn’t true.
These charter buses, often referred to as motorcoaches, are overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The most recent Motorcoach Safety Action Plan reveals approximately 750 million passenger trips are made in these vehicles annually. From 2001 to 2010, motorcoach crashes resulted in approximately 17 deaths annually. The most common causes of these bus accidents, as reported by federal officials, are:
- Driver fatigue;
- Driver behavior (specifically distraction with cell phones);
- Lack of operator oversight (specifically not properly vetting drivers, failing to ensure drivers are well-rested)
- Failing to properly maintain vehicles.
In 2014, the FMCSA reported there were nearly 4,000 large trucks and buses involved in fatal crashes.
In clearing the wreckage of this latest tragedy, officials say most of the bodies were recovered in their seats, suggesting passengers had been properly seated at the time of the crash. In fact, many had been asleep. Officials are examining the “black box” data recorder that would provide clues as to what exactly occurred in the moments before the collision.
The bus had reportedly last been inspected in April and been deemed roadworthy.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
‘I was awakened by the sounds of people screaming’: Bus crash near Palm Springs kills 13, Oct. 24, 2016, By Amy B. Wang, The Washington Post
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$8M Verdict Awarded for Wrongful Death of Disabled Group Home Resident, Oct. 28, 2016, Florida Wrongful Death Lawyer Blog