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Driver of bus was in earlier accident

Times Staff and Wire Reports

The tour bus driver who died along with four passengers in a grisly wreck in the Salinas Valley had injured a woman in a Las Vegas crosswalk about three years ago, police records show.

The Monterey County coroner’s office on Wednesday identified the bus driver as 69-year-old John Egnew of Corona, according to the Associated Press.

Cmdr. Scott Ragan said Egnew died from head and neck injuries after he was thrown from the bus, which was carrying a group of French tourists on a California tour at the time of the crash Tuesday in Soledad.

In the 2005 accident, Egnew admitted not seeing 71-year-old Joan Smith, of Delton, Mich., when he hit her with a bus as she was crossing the street, according to the report prepared by Las Vegas police and provided to the AP by Smith’s lawyer.

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“Smith was knocked backwards several feet and struck the back of her head on the pavement when she fell onto her back,” states the accident report.

It goes on to say the bus “continued rolling on top of Smith and then backed off of her.”

The lawyer, Kevin Lancaster of San Francisco, said his client suffered brain injuries and a fractured pelvis. Weeks Enterprises, which owned the bus that Egnew was driving then as well as a different bus that overturned Tuesday, reached a $750,000 settlement with Smith and her husband last year, according to Lancaster.

Investigators said Egnew’s death could complicate efforts to reconstruct the crash. The California Highway Patrol said the driver lost control of the bus and smashed into a guardrail, causing the vehicle to flip onto its side on a U.S. 101 overpass.

The accident sent at least three of the passengers, as well as the bus driver, over the edge of the overpass and onto a street and railroad tracks about 60 feet below, said Brian Wiest of the CHP.

Three people died at the scene and two people died at hospitals.

The remaining 31 passengers were taken to about 10 hospitals to be treated for injuries, and several remain in critical condition, he said.

Wiest said he did not know if the bus had seat belts, but said those types of buses generally do not.

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A spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told the AP that federal transportation officials plan to do a full review of motor coach safety.

That decision was triggered by an April 21 hearing into a Utah bus crash in January 2008 that killed nine people.


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