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Judge bars L.A. bus company from operating after crash that killed 6

March 7, 2010 |  9:45 am

A U.S. judge has ordered a Los Angeles bus company to cease operations after a crash Friday in Arizona that killed six people.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made the emergency request Saturday in United States District Court against the owner of Tierra Santa Inc., Cayetano Martinez of Los Angeles.

According to a statement by the Transportation Department, Martinez had "previously been shut down by FMCSA, only to attempt to reincarnate himself as a new carrier and unsuccessfully attempted to gain U.S. Department of Transportation operating authority under a new name. Martinez has shown a persistency and determination to continue operating under new entities and business."

The bus, allegedly operating illegally from Mexico and traveling through Texas and Arizona to Los Angeles, slammed into the back of a pickup truck and rolled over early Friday morning in the Arizona desert, killing six passengers and injuring 16.

Tierra Santa officials could not be reached for comment. Phone numbers for the company did not appear to be working Friday.

The bus began its trip near Durango, in the central Mexican state of the same name. In Arizona, it was headed west on Interstate 10 at 5:30 a.m. when the bus rear-ended a Ford F-150 truck.

The bus swerved left into the median, then right, rolling several times before it landed in a ditch, said state Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves.

"I could hear it turning over and over, and dust was in the air," witness Augustine Vavages told the Arizona Republic newspaper. He said he saw the crash from his home.

Several passengers were thrown from the bus; others were found dead inside the vehicle, Graves said. He said some passengers climbed out of the demolished vehicle, and motorists stopped to help others escape. "They were helping people out of the bus when we arrived," Graves said. "It was pretty tense and emotional."

The Transportation Department said the court order prohibits Martinez “from contracting with or arranging for additional transportation of passengers unless the contracted motor carrier possesses valid operating authority registration from FMCSA.”

-- Shelby Grad

Photo credit: Arizona Republic