In a tragic accident last week, a semi-truck jack-knifed, spilled its load of steel pipes, causing a 32-passenger bus to swerve, roll over, and result in the death of four of its passengers.
The accident occurred about 2:00 in the morning, on Interstate 10 at a border inspection station near the California-Arizona border. The truck was heading east, outside Blythe in Riverside County, California. Official reports state that the truck driver attempted to pass a slower vehicle, lost control, struck the center median, jack-knifed, and spilled its freight into the Interstate lanes going both directions.
The bus was heading west; the driver doesn’t appear to have been speeding. The bus driver swerved to avoid the freight, which caused the bus to slide off the highway, into a fence and down a small embankment, and turn over on its side.
The spilled freight caused four additional cars traveling east to crash. Nearly 20 people were taken to a hospital. The four bus passengers who died ranged in age from 30 – 67, and were all from Southern California. There were multiple serious and critical injuries among the other bus passengers. Neither driver was seriously injured.
The Interstate was closed much of the day, with backups for five miles in both directions. Detours were set up on the frontage roads to allow some movement.
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the truck driver had been cited for violations half a year ago. Those included driving eight hours without taking a break, and letting his medical certificate expire. The truck driver owns and operates his own company, called VG Transport. Records also show that the registration for his truck expired in January, and wasn’t supposed to be on the road.
No evidence so far has suggested that the bus, operated by El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express Inc., had any fault in the accident. The bus trip had originated in El Paso and was traveling to Los Angeles after changing drivers in Phoenix. The bus company has been operating in the region since 1966 and rates in the top third in its class over its overall record in its driving, safety and inspection records, as reported by the Department of Transportation. The company got a rating of “satisfactory” during its last review.