Live updates: 13 people killed in tour bus crash on 10 Freeway


A tour bus owned by an Alhambra-based company and a big rig collided on the 10 Freeway in Desert Hot Springs early Sunday.

What we know so far:

Most of the 13 tour bus crash victims have now been identified

Riverside County coroner’s officials have identified 11 of the 13 bus crash victims.

The victims included the bus driver, Teodulo Vides, 59, as well as Isabel Jimenez Hernandez, 66; Rosa Ruiz, 53; Gustavo Green, 62; Zoila Aguilera, 72; Milagros Gonzales, 72; Conception Corvera, 57; Aracely Tije, 63; Dora Galvez de Rodriguez, 69; Elvia Sanchez, 52, and Ana Gomes de Magallon, 71, according to the Riverside County coroner’s records.

Ten of those identified were residents of Los Angeles.

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Doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers mobilize to help bus crash victims

The victims from Sunday’s deadly bus crash streamed into the Desert Regional Medical Center trauma unit around the early morning shift change.

Because of the scope of the tragedy, the hospital summoned chaplains and additional social service workers, extended overtime and made sure there was enough blood to treat the wounded.

Bilingual nurses and lab techs helped doctors communicate with many of the injured Spanish-speaking passengers. Other hospital workers provided transportation and meals for the patients’ family members.

“Everyone was involved today - from X-ray to lab to housekeeping,” said Dr. Ricard Townsend, a trauma surgeon.

Those who were easily removed from the twisted wreckage were the first to arrive. Judging from the injuries, Townsend said, it appeared the passengers were not wearing seatbelts. He said the language barrier and lack of identification for some passengers complicated matters, especially when some patients were transferred to other units within the hospital.

Shortly after the accident 14 patients—ranging in ages from 20 to 70—arrived at the hospital. Many had facial injuries, involving soft tissue and bone, and some had to undergo plastic surgery.

By day’s end five patients remained in the intensive care unit in stable condition and seven were discharged, according to officials.

Townsend said he had never seen an accident quite like this one. But he was proud of the way the hospital responded.

“We respond to crisis with teamwork,” he said.


Deadly bus crash: Family’s desperate search for mother ends in tragedy

The family of Rosa Alba Ruiz emerged from the Riverside County coroner’s office in tears. The 53-year-old mother of three and grandmother of four from Los Angeles was killed in the crash, said Claudio Fernandez, who said Ruiz was married to his uncle.

Ruiz enjoyed visiting local casinos and did so often, sometimes weekly, he said.

“She used to love to go to the casinos, that was part of her hobby,” he said.

“You don’t believe that will happen,” he added. “We went to three hospitals and couldn’t find her and we couldn’t get answers.”

Then, they were told to go to the coroner’s office.


Family desperate for word of woman on tour bus

On Sunday evening, Lester Pelaez of Lancaster and his family arrived at the Riverside County coroner’s office in Perris, in search of news about his brother-in-law’s mother, who he believes was on the tour bus.

The family has been calling and visiting hospitals but have not been able to find her, he said. But a passenger at one hospital had told a family member that someone matching her description was on the bus.

They found the coroner’s number online and by early evening they had made their way to Perris in search of answers.


10 Freeway reopens after bus crash

The 10 Freeway’s westbound lanes have reopened after the deadly bus crash.


Victims of deadly tour bus crash suffered facial injuries, doctor says

Dr. Ricard Townsend of Desert Regional Medical Center had been working his normal shift starting at 5:15 a.m. when passengers from the tour bus began to roll in. The initial 14 patients ranged in age, from their 20s to 70s.

Most of them spoke only Spanish, Townsend said, prompting him to call on technicians and nurses to translate.

Five patients remain in the intensive-care unit in stable condition, and seven others have been discharged, according to officials.

Hospital staff transferred one person to a Kaiser facility in Los Angeles while awaiting a new patient later this afternoon, said hospital spokesman Richard Ramhoff.

Townsend said he hasn’t seen a situation quite like this due to the high speed and slow-motion deceleration nature of the crash, leaving “unrestrained” passengers with multiple facial injuries involving soft tissue and bones.

Doctors are taking an “in-depth look for internal injuries” with plastic surgeons called in to operate, he said.

Patients streamed in between a change of shifts, forcing some staff to extend their hours and work in organized chaos under a hospital coding for a mass casualty incident.

“The passengers arrived based on how easy it was to extricate them first on the bus,” Townsend said. “My understanding is there were no seat belts in use.”


‘It’s tough ... you never get used to this,’ CHP officer says about deadly crash

CHP Border Division Chief Jim Abele described a horrific scene at a bus crash this morning that left 13 people dead and 31 injured.

“In almost 35 years, I’ve never been to a crash where there’s been 13 confirmed fatals,” he said. “It’s tough... you never get used to this.”

The driver of the bus was killed; his identification has not yet been determined. The truck driver was injured but survived and has talked to investigators.

Abele said they believe the bus was owner operated. It had been inspected in 2014, 2015 and in April of this year, and no mechanical deficiencies of note were found, he said.

Caltrans had been working to slow traffic overnight because a utility company was stringing power lines across the freeway, Abele said. At the moment that the crash occurred the traffic break had been lifted. But the truck appeared to still be traveling very slowly — at about 5 mph, Abele said.

The bus slammed into the truck so fast that the back of the trailer went 15 feet into it, Abele said. He believes most of the dead were in the front part of the bus.

Because of the way the crash happened, Abele said, investigators will look at whether the driver fell asleep, whether there were any mechanical failures or whether there was some kind of emergency situation — like the driver suffering a heart attack, Abele said. But he cautioned that the investigation is still in the early phase and more information is needed to know what happened.

“We may not be able to determine exactly why the accident occurred because the driver was killed,” he said, adding that investigators would work to get as close as possible to an answer.

Some surviving passengers who were able to talk with responders said they believed everyone on the bus was asleep when the crash occurred.

Abele said authorities are struggling to identify some of the dead and urged families to contact the Riverside County coroners office at (951) 443-2300.

The CHP is also in contact with a number of local consulates, including Mexico, Japan and Australia, about the crash, he said.


13 dead in bus crash, including the driver; 31 others injured

The California Highway Patrol just released the following information about the crash of a tour bus into a tractor trailer in Desert Hot Springs.

—13 people were killed, including the driver of the bus.

—31 others were injured.

—The bus went about 15 feet into the back of the trailer.

—The bus was traveling at “a significant speed.”

—Majority of those killed were sitting in the front of the bus.

—The investigation is still in the preliminary stages

—Some passengers have not yet been identified. Officials urged family members to contact the Riverside County coroner.

—The bus originated in Los Angeles.


Neighbor of tour bus driver in fatal crash expresses sympathy for family

Sonia Anderson, a neighbor of the bus driver who was among 13 people killed in Sunday’s crash, said she lived next to him for 17 years.

Anderson said Teodulo Elias Vidas owned and drove the bus that catered to gamblers with trips to area casinos.

“I have seen that bus right here,” she said motioning to a stretch of Fremont Avenue in front of the apartment complex in Alhambra where Vidas lived. “He parked the bus there all the time.”

Examining a photo of the crumpled bus, Anderson said, “I feel for his family and especially for Elliot.”

Anderson said that as long as she and her husband knew the family, Vidas had been driving the bus to casinos with mostly older Asian customers.

“He invited me a couple of times. I never went,” she said.
“They are the kindest family .... Our kids grew up around his son, Elliot.”


National Transportation Safety Board heading to crash site for investigation


CHP plans 1:30 p.m. news conference


Grim scene as bodies removed from tour bus crash site

By noon on Sunday, the tour bus had been hauled away and workers swept and carried debris from the road. Several bus seats that had been scattered on the freeway were taken away.

Nearby, an official packed purses and backpacks into brown paper bags.

Bodies that had been lined along the side of the road in white body bags were removed, two at a time, throughout the morning in a slow procession of coroner’s vans.


Scene at hospital that is receiving patients from deadly bus crash


Tour bus removed from Interstate 10 after deadly crash


Front rows of tour bus ‘completely crushed,’ witness says

The whole front of the bus up to about the second or third row of seats was completely crushed into the left rear side of the semi truck. By the time I got there, there were at least a dozen firefighters climbing into the passenger bus pulling people out.

— Poet Aleman, witness to deadly bus crash in Desert Hot Springs, in interview with Desert Sun


Dramatic photo of mangled tour bus after deadly crash

The crash happened just north of Palm Springs, near the region’s large wind farm, in the early morning hours.

Emergency workers are now clearing debris from the highway. They’ve hauled away several bus seats that were scattered in the road.


Local hospitals flooded with victims of tour bus crash

Desert Regional Medical Center, which has the Coachella Valley’s only trauma center, received 14 adult patients, including five who were in critical condition, said public information officer Richard Ramhoff.

Eisenhower Medical Center received 11 adult patients, all with minor injuries, said public information officer Lee Rice.

John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital received five adult patients with minor injuries, including neck strain and cuts and abrasions, said nursing supervisor Stephen Williams.


Photo: Mangled tour bus involved in fatal crash is prepared for towing

(Gina Ferrazi / Los Angeles Times)


Fatal bus crash: News conference is expected soon


5 passengers in critical condition, 25 others injured, hospitals say

Five passengers in the USA Holiday bus that crashed on Interstate 10 Sunday morning are in critical condition at a local hospital.

Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, which has the Coachella Valley’s only trauma center, received 14 adult patients after the crash, including five in critical condition, spokesman Richard Ramhoff said.

Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage received 11 adult patients, all with minor injuries, said public information officer Lee Rice.

John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio received five adult patients with minor injuries, including neck strain and cuts and abrasions, said nursing supervisor Stephen Williams.


What we know about the bus tour operator

The bus involved in the early morning crash with a big rig was operated by USA Holiday, an Alhambra-based company that owns one bus and employs one driver, according to federal records.

A woman who answered the phone at USA Holiday told The Times that she was the daughter of the company’s owners. She said she did not know how many people had been killed or whether the driver survived.

In the last several months, USA Holiday has used Facebook and Instagram to advertise trips from Koreatown, the San Fernando Valley and Southeast Los Angeles to casinos across Southern California.

In one Instagram post, USA Holiday advertised a $20 bus fare from Koreatown to the Red Earth Casino in Thermal, leaving at 8:30 p.m. three days per week. Passengers could stay at the casino for 4 1/2 hours and return to the L.A. area by the early morning.

According to FreightConnect, a private data provider, USA Holiday was last inspected by federal transportation officials in April of last year and received a satisfactory rating. No issues with the coach or driver were reported.

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Crash closes westbound Interstate 10


Location of fatal tour bus crash


Scene at site of fatal tour bus crash

(Paloma Esquivel / Los Angeles Times)

Times staff writer Paloma Esquivel is at the scene of a fatal bus crash in Desert Hot Springs.