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California

Families of two people killed in bus crash near Palm Springs file wrongful-death lawsuit against the bus company

A memorial in Los Angeles this week for the victims of a bus crash that left 13 people dead and 31 injured near Palm Springs.
Women light votive candles at a sidewalk memorial for victims of a collision between a tour bus and a big rig that killed 13 people and injured 31 others near Palm Springs.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The families of two people killed when a tour bus crashed Sunday as it headed back from a casino near the Salton Sea filed a wrongful-death lawsuit this week against the bus company and the estate of the deceased bus driver.

The suit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court against bus company USA Holiday and the estate of driver Teodulo Vides, claims Vides failed to travel at a safe speed and failed to brake to avoid the crash. It also claims that the bus was not properly maintained.

Thirteen people were killed and 31 injured when the bus collided with a big rig on Interstate 10 near Palm Springs early Sunday morning after leaving the Red Earth Casino in Thermal.

The suit was filed on behalf of the estates of and the children of Gustavo Garcia Green and Tony Mai.

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Family members of Vides did not return calls seeking comment. Vides owned USA Holiday, which he operated out of his home.

The crash was the deadliest in the state in several decades. 

David E. Harris, who is one of two attorneys representing the families of Green and Mai in the lawsuit, said the men’s relatives are devastated and want answers about the crash.

“It’s nothing you would expect getting on the bus to go visit a casino,” he said.

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The National Transportation Safety Board this week said the bus did not comply with vehicle safety standards because two of its eight tires lacked sufficient tread. 

As a federal probe into the crash continues, the families’ attorneys are simultaneously conducting an independent investigation and have talked to witnesses.

Harris said the men’s families want to push for increased safety. 

“It’s really an industry that I think is poorly regulated,” he said. “Everything we have seen here appears it’s not. It’s scary to think … people go and buy a bus ticket and think everything is going to be OK.”

Green, 62, was a mechanic from Guatemala, said his son, Lester Garcia. The father of 10 enjoyed going to casinos to gamble.

Mai, from La Habra, was also a mechanic. His love of gambling brought him and his girlfriend, Francisca Escobar, together.

Escobar said she tried to go with him to the casino, but he asked her to stay home

“I was so upset with him,” Escobar told The Times. “I can’t imagine now. We both would have died.”

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veronica.rocha@latimes

paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

Times staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez contributed to this report.

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