Phone calls to emergency dispatchers after a tour bus crash near Yucaipa earlier this month that left eight people dead show that some authorities immediately believed the bus' brakes had probably given out.
"Now the bus is crashed, it passed up a line of traffic going about 80 mph, I don't know what's wrong with the person driving the bus," said one woman who called 911 at 6:32 p.m., shortly after the Feb. 3 incident.
"OK, because their brakes went out," responded the dispatcher, according to recordings of emergency calls related to the crash provided by the California Highway Patrol. "We're trying to find them.... We're getting several calls and we're not able to tell exactly where this is at."
The bus crashed on California 38 about four miles north of Yucaipa. It had left Mexico earlier the same day for a trip to Big Bear and crashed on the return trip, striking two other vehicles. Seven bus passengers were killed, as was a person in one of the other vehicles.
Since the deadly crash, federal officials have ordered the company that owned the bus involved -- Scapadas Magicas -- to close immediately, saying it was "an imminent hazard to public safety."
Other callers to emergency dispatchers after the accident reported fires and people with apparently serious injuries.
"It flipped and turned over.... There's tons of people all over the place.... It's horrible. I would imagine he had no brakes.... He had his blinkers on," one caller said.
"It's horrible, there's a car, a truck that's been hit, some kind of trailer, blood everywhere, just everywhere.... The bus driver acted like he was in a race," the caller said.
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Photo: Authorities investigate deadly tour bus crash. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times