POLLARD FLAT, Calif. (CBSLA.com/AP) — A tour bus traveling from Los Angeles to Pasco, Washington, crashed in Northern California Sunday morning, killing a 33-year-old man and injuring dozens more, authorities reported.
The crash took place at around 7:40 a.m. drifted off the 5 Freeway and flipped into an embankment in Pollard Flat, in north Shasta County, according to California Highway Patrol.
Paramedics arrived to find the bus upside down with blood-soaked luggage and debris strewn about, the Redding Record Searchlight reported.
A male passenger was killed. His name has not been released because relatives have not yet been notified of his death.
Twenty-six others from the bus were taken to hospitals. Most had minor injuries and were treated and released, CHP Officer Jeff Borgen told the Record Searchlight.
Three patients were in critical condition, including one who was flown by helicopter to Mercy Medical Center in Mount Shasta with severe head injuries, hospital spokeswoman Joyce Zwanziger told the Sacramento Bee.
Three people were in serious condition at the same hospital’s Redding location, where most of the patients were taken, spokeswoman Heather Nichols said.
“We drill for this kind of thing,” Nichols told the Record-Searchlight.
The bus got into another crash earlier in the morning, around 5, when it clipped the side of a Denny’s restaurant in Red Bluff. No one was injured in what witnesses called a minor collision.
Passengers intimated that driver fatigue may have been a factor in both crashes, Borgen said.
“You could tell that he wasn’t paying attention, because he just kept going straight. And I think he might have fallen asleep a little bit, I’m not sure,” crash survivor Francisco Corona said.
CHP identified the driver as Jose Victor Garcilazo Palencia, 67, of Los Angeles.
“He said he loved his job, said it was amazing: meeting new people, taking them all over the place,” Palencia’s neighbor Junior Gomez told CBS2/KCAL9’s Laurie Perez.
The bus is operated by a company called Yellow Arrow Lines, which is based in Othello, Washington.
The American Bus Association told CBS2/KCAL9 they want to know how the bus has a Department of Transportation ID but no safety rating from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. They said that raises a red flag.
“Here’s something to think about: 50 percent, and this is a number we look at, more than 50 percent of all motor coach company accidents over the past 15 years have been by companies that have the lowest safety ratings,” according to ABA spokesperson Dan Ronan. “So there’s only a small fraction of companies that have really low safety ratings or are not rated, but yet they’re responsible for more than 50 percent of the accidents.”
CHP is investigating the cause of the crash. No charges have been filed.
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