A tour bus crashed twice on Sunday in Northern California -- the second time killing one man and injuring 30 other passengers -- and an investigation is underway.
The CHP said Monday the fact that the bus crashed into a Denny's before the later deadly crash could point to fatigue on the part of the driver. He was identified as Jose Victor Garcilazo Palencia, 67, of Los Angeles.
No one was injured in the first crash, but 33-year-old Octaviano Garcia, of Parlier, Calif., died in the second crash, according to the Shasta County Coroner’s Office. A coroner’s spokeswoman says an autopsy is planned for later this week.
Officer Kim Baldi of the CHP's Mount Shasta station said investigators would be looking into the number of hours the driver had been on the road, but she added that "no conclusion" had been drawn.
A man who identified himself as the son of Palencia, the tour bus driver, told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday that he had not heard from his father.
CHP officials said the bus first crashed into a Denny's restaurant in Red Bluff before the fatal crash on northbound Interstate 5, north of Pollard Flat.
At Mercy Medical Center Redding, five patients were being treated Monday in connection with the crash, a spokeswoman said. Two who were in critical condition had been upgraded to serious as of Monday morning and three others were listed in fair condition.
At Mercy Medical Center in Mount Shasta, chief nurse Sherie Ambrose said the hospital had one patient in critical but stable condition and another in stable condition.
The CHP said the 1996 Van Hool bus drifted off the freeway's right shoulder at about 7:40 a.m., went down an embankment and overturned. The tour bus came to a rest on its roof.
Federal records show Yellow Arrow Lines is based in Othello, Wash., with a fleet of six vehicles and 10 drivers. Insurance records filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration show that the company originated in March 2013 and had its authority to operate revoked for about two weeks in March of this year because it failed to file proof of insurance with the agency.
Duane DeBruyne, a spokesman for the agency, said Yellow Arrow Lines passed a safety audit conducted in September 2013. A separate compliance review – which federal law would have required by March 2015 – “is being conducted immediately,” he said, and will be will be provided to authorities to paint “as full a picture as possible of all the elements that may or may not have been at play in this crash.”
The company has been randomly inspected at least twice since it was formed and has had no accidents, the records show. But one of two drivers inspected was taken “out of service.” DeBruyne said a driver can be forced to stop operating if an inspector discovers problems with his or her credentials, medical certificates or log books – which record how long a driver has been on duty.
DeBruyne declined to comment on the issue of driver fatigue but said federal law allows bus drivers to spend as much as 10 hours behind the wheel and as much as 15 hours on duty.
“If there is something that is an imminent hazard, the driver is placed out of service until the issue gets straightened out,” he said. Specific information about Palencia is not available due to federal privacy laws, he said.
One of the random inspections was of a company passenger van in July 2013. Records listed minor violations related to a "bus driveshaft not properly protected" as well as a fire extinguisher.
Terry Williams, spokesman with the National Transportation Safety Board, said the agency was “gathering information” about the crash, but “right now it doesn’t appear that we’re going to launch an investigation into this accident."
CHP investigators collected evidence and used mapping equipment to reconstruct the collision sequence.
"The California Highway Patrol would like to take this unfortunate opportunity to remind all drivers that driving while fatigued is very dangerous," the CHP said in a statement. "Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but don’t realize that driving while fatigued can be just as fatal as driving under the influence."
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