Wednesday, April 16, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Bus passenger describes terror before Calif crash

YUCAIPA — The bus full of tired tourists from Mexico was slowly winding its way down the mountain from the ski resort town of Big Bear when it suddenly picked up speed. The driver shouted to call 911 — the brakes had failed.

As passengers frantically tried to get a cellphone signal, a group of teenage girls shrieked and prayed aloud as others cried and shielded their heads as they careened downhill.

The bus rear-ended a Saturn sedan, swerved, flipped and slid on its side. A Ford pickup in the oncoming lane plowed into it, righting the bus and tossing passengers out shattered windows before it came to a halt.

“Everything happened so fast. When the bus spun everything flew, even the people,” said Gerardo Barrientos, who was next to his girlfriend one minute and then scrambling out of the wreckage the next moment to find her and a friend in the highway, injured but alive among the carnage.

Seven people were killed and dozens injured Sunday in the accident 80 miles east of Los Angeles. On Monday, families from Tijuana anxiously sought loved ones in hospitals and investigators searched the scene for evidence and scrutinized the company’s safety history.

Government records showed the bus, operated by Scapadas Magicas of National City, Calif., recorded 22 safety violations in inspections over a year — including brake, windshield and tire problems.

The crash littered State Route 38 with body parts, winter clothing and debris. The bus stood across both lanes with its windows blown out, front end crushed and part of the roof peeled back like a tin can.

“I saw many people dead. There are very, very horrendous images in my head, things I don’t want to think about,” Barrientos said as he and girlfriend Lluvia Ramirez, who both work at a government hospital in Tijuana, waited outside the Loma Linda University Medical Center emergency room for word on a friend who broke her neck.

After the crash, Barrientos, who was uninjured, moved his friends to safety and then tried to help the bus driver, whose hand was pinned between rocks.

Ramirez, who had a bloody ear, dark bruises and a scratch on her neck, suffered a hairline vertebra fracture.

“I was overwhelmed,” she said. “I’m a surgical resident and I usually know how to react, but I was so in shock I didn’t know what to do. I just stayed with my friend.”

The bus was going slowly down the hill and was being passed by other vehicles, including the Saturn, when it suddenly sped up for an unknown reason, according to a person involved in the investigation who requested anonymity because the probe was ongoing.

The bus traveled about a mile from the point it struck the Saturn until it came to a stop, said California Highway Patrol Officer Leon Lopez.

Investigators will determine if mechanical failure or driver error was to blame. The road, which sometimes closes in winter during snow storms, was dry at the time.

The bus driver, Norberto B. Perez, approximately 52, of San Ysidro, was in serious condition, authorities said.

The driver told investigators the vehicle had brake problems.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to the scene to help in the probe.

Federal transportation records show the bus company was licensed to carry passengers for interstate travel and that it had no crashes in the past two years.

Stephen Keppler of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, a group with industry and government members, said buses and trucks average about two violations for each inspection.

Overall, buses operated by the firm flunked 36 percent of random inspections, the records indicate. That’s higher than the national average for similar companies — a 21 percent failure rate.

The California company had an overall “satisfactory” rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration — but records show three-quarters of similar companies had better safety records.

No one answered the door at the Scapadas Magicas office in a sprawling complex that houses more than 1,300 storage lockers and about 30 small offices.

The bus left Tijuana early Sunday for the three-hour ride to ferry people up to Big Bear for a day in the snow.

Crews worked through the night to recover the dead, removing the last body Monday afternoon.

At least 17 people were still hospitalized, including at least five in critical condition. One is a girl.

The pickup driver was in extremely serious condition, said Peter Brierty, assistant county fire chief. Three people were in the Saturn.

Rocky Shaw, San Bernardino County coroner’s investigation, said one of the dead victims was a 13-year-old boy. The boy’s family from Tijuana was meeting with Mexican Consulate officials after spending the night going from hospital to hospital looking for him.

Jordi Garcia, marketing director of Interbus, said his company rented the bus from Scapadas Magicas, which supplied the driver.

Interbus offers Mexicans near-daily bus tours to the western U.S. from Tijuana. Its office in a Tijuana strip mall displays photographs of some of its destinations, including Hollywood, the Las Vegas Strip and the San Diego Zoo.

There were 38 people aboard the bus that crashed, including the driver and a tour guide, Garcia said. The bus left Tijuana at 5 a.m. Sunday, with the itinerary calling for a return late that night.

“Everything points to faulty brakes,” Garcia said.

He said he spoke briefly with his tour guide, who suffered bruises. She told him she heard a loud pop before the crash.

Garcia said he believed all passengers were Mexican citizens, but one mother said her injured daughter was a U.S. citizen.

Big Bear Lake sits at an elevation of 6,750 feet, and the area has ski resorts and other snow play areas.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
 
Supervisor candidates file conflict-of-interest forms

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1

 
Trial begins for teacher accused of abusing children

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

Suisun police ID shooting victim

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 2 Comments

 
Solano Jews gather for start of Passover

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
 
County discusses consolidated dispatch

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
Miner Slough Bridge to see repairs

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A4

 
‘Heaven is for Real’ opens Wednesday

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B5

 
Fiesta Days pageant organizers seek contestants

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5

 
Easter hunt set for Mare Island

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Crews make quick work of vehicle fire

By Glen Faison | From Page: A6, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
Paper Clover Campaign supports Solano County 4-H

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A6

Coakley joins Solano fair board

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A6

 
Hundreds flock to Krispy Kreme as it opens doors

By Susan Winlow | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
County to honor Solano educators

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

.

US / World

Officials: Huge San Francisco blaze was accidental

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
‘Shrimp Boy’ pleads not guilty in corruption case

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Solemn tributes mark Boston Marathon bombing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Immigration activists urge Obama to act boldly

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Supremacist faces murder charges in Kansas deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Ukraine: Military secures airport from attack

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Democrats have outside money advantage – for now

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 2 Comments

 
First women move into Army platoon artillery jobs

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Final deadline arrives for health exchange sign-up

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
New LA newspaper embraces print in digital world

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Congress is giving states the transportation blues

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Police: Suspects in killings wore GPS devices

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14, 1 Comment

DNA alternative to Pap smear sparks medical debate

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Robot sub returns to water after 1st try cut short

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

Hamas praises deadly West Bank shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

 
2 dead after ferry sinks off SKorean coast

By The Associated Press | From Page: A15

.

Opinion

 
Oh, for the days of Dr. Welby

By Dan K. Thomasson | From Page: A13, 12 Comments

Poor Judgement in Flight 370 column

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

 
Senseless babble that hurts

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13

 
Expand Red Top Road

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A13, 1 Comment

Editorial cartoons for April 16, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A13

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: April 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
What love gives you

By Barton Goldsmith | From Page: A2

Today in History for April 16, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
A matzo ball soup fit for a weeknight dinner

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Saving carrots from their usual sugary Easter fate

By Sara Moulton | From Page: B6

 
Sweet pairings for grown-up Easter treats

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

My husband still pays his 45-year-old unemployed son’s bills

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

 
Horoscopes for April 16, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

Boston Globe wins Pulitzer for bombing coverage

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Lindsay Lohan’s mom pleads guilty to DWI in NY

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Strahan’s ‘GMA’ side job confirmed with his visit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Cal hires Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin as coach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Warriors trying to move on without Andrew Bogut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Sharks’ Torres uncertain for playoff opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Indians shut out Mustangs

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Ex-Minnesota State, Mankato coach returning to job

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Panthers jump Sabres to win NHL draft lottery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

More former players sue NHL regarding concussions

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
49ers sign WR Brandon Lloyd to 1-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

MLB marks 67th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

Twitter buys data analytics partner Gnip

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

 
Yellen signals more aggressive stance toward banks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A14

.

Obituaries

Carolyn McClelland

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Evonne Medina

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

.

Comics

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7