Military Bus Overturns, Injuring 22 Passengers : Accidents: Civil Air Patrol cadets and others were on an outing to Point Mugu. The CHP blames a brake failure.
A bus filled with Southern California teen-agers on their way to an outing at Point Mugu overturned on a narrow, steep road near Camarillo on Saturday, injuring 17 youths and five adults, officials said.
The bus was carrying 24 passengers, all but one members of the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian Air Force Auxiliary and aerospace education program.
Two passengers were taken by helicopter to Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura with serious injuries.
Gloria Zabala of Ontario, a friend of bus driver Mark Floyd, suffered a broken back. Zabala, 39, was the only passenger not affiliated with the Civil Air Patrol.
The other seriously injured passenger was Patrick Long, 14, of Covina, who suffered a broken leg and shoulder.
Twenty passengers were taken by ambulance to four hospitals, according to the California Highway Patrol. Most were treated for minor bumps and bruises, hospital spokesmen said.
The youths, ages 12 to 19, are cadets in Civil Air Patrol squadrons in Chino, Fullerton, Upland and Santa Fe Springs and were on their way to tour Point Mugu Naval Air Station.
Four of the people on the bus were from Riverside County, six were from San Bernardino County, 14 were from Los Angeles County and one was from Orange County, a CHP spokesman said.
Civil Air Patrol Maj. Bill Hemphill said bus driver Floyd, 32, of Covina, had picked up his passengers at the Covina Fire Station between 5:30 and 6 a.m.
Ventura County CHP spokeswoman Staci Morse said the accident occurred about 9 a.m., after the bus’s air brakes apparently lost power.
The bus, owned by March Air Force Base in Riverside, landed on its right side, its front facing uphill as it lay diagonally across the curved two-lane road. The CHP closed the road, which runs from Thousand Oaks to Camarillo State Hospital, for about 4 1/2 hours.
"(The driver) was coming west down the grade when he noticed a brake light come on,” Morse said. “He tried to control the bus. He got a little over 60 m.p.h. It started to go to the right, and then to the left.”
Master Sgt. Lionel Harvey of March Air Force Base said the bus’s brakes had been checked in April and were working then. Only the driver’s seat had a seat belt, CHP Sgt. Mike Shaw said.
Skid marks indicated that the bus came close to a cliff on the right side of the road before Floyd steered it in the direction of a hill on the left.
“It was very lucky that it didn’t go a few feet to the north,” said CHP investigating officer Joe Davy. “It would have gone over a very steep embankment.”
Morse said Floyd drove onto the winding Potrero Road after getting lost on his way to the naval air station.
“He felt he had passed the base, so he doubled back at Thousand Oaks and got directions. These are the directions he got,” she said. “Once he got on Potrero Road, he didn’t feel comfortable turning around.”
Raul Miro, a 17-year-old cadet from Whittier, said the moments before the accident were punctuated by mechanical and verbal warnings.
“We were going down that hill when we heard an alarm that signaled the brake was failing. Then we heard the emergency brake was gone, too,” Raul said. “Somebody yelled, ‘Hey, we don’t have no brake pressure.’ Then a senior member yelled, ‘Get down.’ ”
Raul, who was treated at Pleasant Valley Hospital in Camarillo for injuries to his groin and left knee, said he and other passengers noticed oil leaking from the bus after the accident.
“We were afraid it might explode,” he said.
Twelve-year-old Ryan Artolachipe of Upland said he climbed through a broken window at the back of the bus. He was treated at Pleasant Valley Hospital for a possible sprain of his right foot and an injury to his back.
“We all fell out of our seats,” he said. “I got thrown and hit my back.”
CHP officer Davy said the bus driver “made a heroic effort to get the bus to stop. They never would have made it down the hill without the brakes.”
Rose Lyon and her fiance, Walter Mebane, drove up from Pomona to pick up their son, Peter Pinkerton, 15, from Westlake Community Hospital in Westlake Village. Peter was treated for an arm injury.
Lyon and Mebane said they received a call from the hospital about 10 a.m.
“We got word and came straight up here,” Mebane said. “He hurt his arm. He said he was shaken at first, but after that he was all right. He came out of it like a trouper.”
After picking up Peter, Mebane and Lyon drove friend Pam Williams to Pleasant Valley Hospital, where her daughter, Jamie, was being X-rayed. Jamie, a 16-year-old cadet, bumped her head in the accident.
“I’d like to thank the bus driver,” Pam Williams said. “If he hadn’t done what he did, they might have gone over the cliff.”
Smith is a Times staff writer and Fields is a Times correspondent.