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Deadly Tour Bus Crash Near Yucaipa

Mentone Fatal Tour Bus CrashEight people were killed and dozens more were hurt when a tour bus collided with two other vehicles on Highway 38 near Yucaipa.

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NEAR YUCAIPA, Calif. — Scapadas Magicas LLC, the company that owns the tour bus involved in the deadly crash Sunday on California 38 that killed eight people and left dozens injured, is “an imminent hazard to public safety” and must close immediately, federal officials said Friday.

“After the tragic crash earlier this week … investigators quickly inspected this carrier’s other two buses which had been operated on U.S. roads, and immediately shut them down,” Anne S. Ferro of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said in a news release.

“Today, we’ve officially blocked the company from conducting future operations in the United States,” Ferro said.

According to the release from the U.S. Department of Transportation, investigators “also found that the company had failed to ensure that its vehicles were systematically inspected, repaired and maintained, and that its drivers were properly qualified and licensed, contrary to information provided by company officials in January 2013.”

The tour bus had left Mexico on Feb. 3 for a trip to Big Bear. On the return trip, about 4 miles north of Yucaipa, the bus crashed on California 38, striking two other vehicles.

Seven passengers aboard the bus and one other person were killed.

Los Angeles Times

HIGHLAND, Calif. (KTLA) — At least two dozen of the first-responders to Sunday night’s deadly tour bus crash, which left eight people dead and dozens injured, attended a meeting Wednesday in San Bernardino County to help them cope with their feelings.

Police, firefighters and paramedics, who worked through the debris of the crash scene in Mentone, tending to the wounded and covering the dead, came together to share their thoughts at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland.

“It’s no different than grief counseling,” Battalion Chief Ron Walls of the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

“There was a time early on in my career when everyone was all into machismo, you know, rub some dirt on it and walk it off. Over the years, we’ve learned that with these events, there is a cumulative effect. If you don’t deal with it, it’s going to continue to compound and we’ve ended up with people having difficulty. This is our way of trying to help take care of the people who take care of everyone else,” he said.

Many first responders cannot talk openly about the ordeal at home, because they have children.

Even if they can talk freely, others do not understand how life changing an event like the bus accident can be for the people who work through it.

“These were the folks who were there. That’s why this is so important, so they can share their experiences with each other in a safe environment and know it’s not going to go anywhere,” Cal Fire Spokesperson said Bill Peters.

- Jim Nash Reporting

YUCAIPA, Calif. (KTLA) — The death toll in a tour bus crash on State Route 38 in San Bernardino County has risen to eight, authorities confirmed.

Mentone Fatal Tour Bus CrashThe latest victim is 72-year-old Fred Richardson, of San Bernardino. He passed away just after 6:30 a.m. Wednesday at Loma Linda Hospital.

Richardson was the driver of the pickup truck that was smashed underneath the bus.

The crash happened around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday near Yucaipa, as the bus was descending from Big Bear.

It clipped a small Saturn sedan before it veered into oncoming traffic and began to roll, crushing a Ford pickup before coming to rest.

Passengers who were not wearing seat belts were tossed from the bus. Backpacks, clothing and body parts were strewn across the crash site.

All of the other victims who were killed were on the bus. Three people who were in the sedan escaped serious injury.

The tour bus was under contract with InterBus Tours and Charters, based in Tijuana.

It left the border town on Sunday morning for the day trip to Big Bear with 38 passengers, including children. Dozens of people remain hospitalized with injuries ranging in severity.

Federal officials spent Tuesday scouring the office of the company that owned the bus, Scapadas Magicas, of National City, the Los Angeles Times reports.

They interviewed the owner and took maintenance records as part of their investigation.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the California Highway Patrol are also now combing through the wreckage.

The CHP said that all major parts, including the brakes, engine components, steering, driver controls and suspension components will be carefully inspected.

Federal records show that Scapadas Magicas has received 18 safety and maintenance violations, including deficient brakes, since October 2011.

The safety violations resulted in the company being placed on a federal watch list flagging its buses for increased roadside inspections.

CHP officials said their inspection will take several days. The results of the investigation into the cause of the crash could take months.

There are some questions about the location of Scapadas Magicas, which also parks buses in Tijuana.

But California Highway Patrol officials told the Times that inspection standards are the same for every bus, regardless of its origin.

If a company has a bus terminal in California, all buses assigned to that terminal are subject to an annual inspection by the CHP.

However, buses coming across the border are not treated the same as other commercial vehicles.

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, every tractor-trailer coming into the U.S. from Mexico is required to be inspected, but buses are not.

NEAR YUCAIPA, Calif. — The investigation into a tour deadly bus crash continues, amid revelations that the bus and its owner had been cited repeatedly for safety issues.

The death toll has been revised to seven, with many others still hospitalized.

Mentone Fatal Tour Bus CrashThe coroner has identified six of the seven victims of the crash, which happened around 6:30 p.m. Sunday on State Route 38 near Yucaipa.

They include Guadalupe Olivas, 61; Elvira Garcia Jimenez, 40; and Victor Cabrera Garcia, 13, all from San Diego.

Also killed were Mario Garcia Santoyo, 32; Aleida Adriana Arce Hernandez, 38; and Rubicelia Escobedo Flores, 34, all from Tijuana, Mexico.

The tour bus, owned by Scapadas Magicas, of National City, left Tijuana early Sunday with 38 passengers, including children, authorities said.

It was descending from the ski resort town of Big Bear Lake when the driver apparently lost control about four miles from Yucaipa.

The bus clipped a small Saturn sedan before it veered into oncoming traffic and began to roll, crushing an oncoming Ford pickup before coming to rest.

Passengers who were not wearing seat belts were tossed from the bus. Backpacks, clothing and body parts were strewn across the crash site.

All of those killed were bus passengers, according to the California Highway Patrol.

“It is a gruesome and horrible scene,” said Officer Leon Lopez, spokesman for the CHP. “It’s one of the most horrific scenes I’ve ever seen in 10 years with the department.”

The dozens of injured were transported to at least four local hospitals. Some suffered minor injuries and were treated and released.

Two passengers, including a child, remained in critical condition at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

There were three people inside the sedan who escaped serious injury. The driver of the pickup truck had to be cut out of his vehicle.

Investigators believe that a problem with the bus’ brakes may be to blame for the crash.

The driver, as well as passengers, reported that the bus was experiencing mechanical problems before the accident occurred.

Officials have interviewed the bus driver, identified as Norberto B. Perez, 52, of San Ysidro, but have not released his account of what happened.

Meantime, records show that the bus and its owner, Scapadas Magicas, had been cited repeatedly in recent months for poor maintenance.

In October, Scapadas Magicas was cited for eight deficiencies found during a roadside check of the vehicle.

Those included a damaged windshield and lack of a properly installed fire extinguisher.

In July, the same bus was cited for a damaged windshield, as well as a faulty axle and brakes. In May, its wheel fasteners were loose or missing.

In all, federal inspectors found 59 violations on Scapadas Magicas’ buses in the last two years, U.S. Department of Transportation safety records show.

As a result, the Transportation Department had placed Scapadas Magicas on a watch list that prioritized its buses for intervention and roadside inspections.

Maria McDade, who said she was Scapadas Magicas’ administrator for more than 20 years before retiring last year, said none of the company’s buses had ever been in an accident.

She also said that, aside from a fine of $2,500, the company had complied with all Department of Transportation regulations.

The tour bus was operating under a contract with Tijuana-based InterBus Tours. The agency suspended its operations on Monday.

In a message on its Facebook page, InterBus Tours expressed regret for the accident and said that is contractor was insured.

Sales Manager Jordi Garcia said the agency’s insurance would be handling burial expenses for the deceased.

He said that the company had been open for a year and offered daily trips to Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Universal Studios.

Big Bear was also a popular destination this time of year, according to Garcia, and the cost of the excursion was $40.

He said the business contracts with independently owned bus operators and that they are responsible for complying with all U.S. and Mexican regulations.

Garcia said that the agency has never had a problem in the past with any of the operators with whom they contract.

Information from The Los Angeles Times

LOMA LINDA, Calif. (KTLA) — Many family members of the victims of a deadly tour bus crash near Yucaipa are still waiting to hear what happened to their loved ones.

Several people gathered outside Loma Linda University Medical Center on Monday morning.

At least five victims were transported there after Sunday night’s crash, including two that were described as minors. One of the children was reportedly in critical condition.

KTLA spoke to Isabel Jimenez and her husband early Monday. Her 13-year-old nephew, Victor, was among those killed in the crash.

Her sister, who is Victor’s grandmother, is also believed to be among the dead.

Victor’s mother, Elvira Jimenez, is still missing. According to Isabel, she is in her 40s and is a U.S. citizen who is a practicing doctor in Tijuana.

“Three of them passed away… I don’t want to listen to that,” Isabel said. “That’s too much… I don’t want to believe, but if that happened we have to accept what God sent to us.”

A memorial with candles has been set up on the sidewalk outside the Loma Linda Medical emergency room.

“There’s victims. There’s people hurt. We need to show sympathy and compassion,”said Christina Cayzer, who was there as a show of support.

“[We're] just praying for their recovery, praying that their families can help them through this,” she added.

Additional victims were also taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, Redlands Community Hospital, Community Hospital of San Bernardino and St. Bernardine Medical Center.