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L.A. Now Live: NTSB chief criticizes regulators for lax oversight

Join a discussion with Times reporter Ari Bloomekatz at 9 a.m. about the National Transportation Safety Board’s findings on a fatal bus crash in San Bernardino that showed the vehicle had significant maintenance issues and federal regulators exercised poor oversight.

The head of the NTSB chastised federal regulators Thursday for lax oversight of the tour bus and commercial trucking industry, citing in part the deadly San Bernardino County bus crash in which the driver lost control, struck an embankment and overturned.

In the Feb. 3 accident on California Highway 38, investigators found that all of the brakes on the bus were defective in some way, and that if the vehicle had been stopped for a roadside inspection, it surely would have been removed from service.

Instead, on that Sunday evening, the bus carried 40 passengers returning to Mexico after a day trip to Big Bear. The bus, owned and operated by Scapadas Magicas, was heading downhill near Yucaipa and the driver had difficulty slowing the vehicle. The bus clipped a Saturn sedan and rolled onto its side, then struck an oncoming pickup truck.

Seven passengers on the bus were killed and nearly a dozen were seriously injured. The driver of the truck also died.

In January, shortly before the crash, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration inspectors had completed a review of Scapadas Magicas, based in National City on the Mexican border.

The company had an "alert" indicating vehicle maintenance problems, according to the NTSB. But no buses and few business records were inspected because they were in Tijuana, where much of the company's business was conducted.


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