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Tour bus crash: Three generations of one family are among the dead

February 5, 2013 |  7:59 pm


Victor Cabrera Garcia, a 13-year-old from Chula Vista, had never seen snow, so his mother, Elvira Garcia Jimenez, 40, and grandmother, Guadalupe Olivas, 61, decided it was a good time as any to take a trip to the mountains.

Gabriel Olivas, married to Guadalupe, joined them.  

The three generations got on a bus Sunday in Tijuana and headed for Big Bear Lake. After a day of fun, they boarded again for the long ride home. But as the bus, operated by Scapadas Magicas, descended the winding mountain highway leading home, the driver lost control and it hit two other vehicles and rolled over. All three died, along with four other passengers. 

PHOTOS: Tour bus crash

Gabriel Olivas survived. 1356336_ME_0205_bus_crash2_2_DPB

Michael Guluster, his brother-in-law, said Olivas offered the following account of the horrific accident:

Olivas was sitting with the rest of the family when the bus started picking up speed. The driver announced that he had lost braking power. Olivas, who speaks little English, gave his phone to Elvira Garcia so she could call 911 as the bus careened out of control. Olivas grabbed his wife, gripped the seat in front of him and held on as 1356336_ME_0205_bus_crash2_4_DPBthe bus flipped over. It rolled once. Then he blacked out, according to Guluster. 

When Olivas awoke, the road was strewn with twisted metal and bodies that had been thrown from the bus. He wanted to search for his family, but it was too dark. Then an emergency helicopter started circling overhead and lit up the area.

“That’s when he started to look around and saw his wife. He recognized her clothes, but she didn’t talk. She didn’t move,” Guluster said.

Olivas, who was badly bruised and bleeding from a head wound, was taken to a hospital, where he informed Guluster that Guadalupe had died. Guluster and his wife, Isabel, who had driven from their home in Chula Vista, spent the next several hours visiting several hospitals in search of Garcia and her son.

“We were so anxious, and hopeful, that maybe we would find them alive,” Guluster said.

Several hours later, they got the news from the coroner’s office that both had died in the accident.

Elvira Garcia was a medical doctor and a Baja California university professor who had gone on the trip with several of her students. Her son, Victor, who attended private school in Tijuana, wanted to be a doctor like his mother, said Isabel.

“We’re all emotionally destroyed,” Isabel said. “We can’t believe it. Why did all three have to die?”

Guluster questions why a bus with a troubled repair history -- it had 18 violations since October 2011 -- was used for the trip.

“I think the bus company knew the bus had issues and not fit to be in service, but they did it anyway,” he said. Like many families, they are considering legal action.


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-- Richard Marosi

Top photo: Firefighters work Monday to secure the wreckage of a tour bus that crashed the night before in the San Bernardino Mountains. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Middle photos: Guadalupe Olivas, 61, left, Elvira Garcia Jimenez, 40, were killed in the bus crash along with Victor Cabrera, 13.