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Tour bus crash: Vehicle had been flagged for repeated violations

February 4, 2013 | 11:35 am

PHOTOS: California 38 tour bus crash

The bus that crashed on a narrow mountain road near Yucaipa, Calif., on Sunday night, killing at least eight people and injuring more than 30 others, had been cited repeatedly in recent months for poor maintenance.

In October, owner Scapadas Magicas, a small firm in National City, was cited for eight deficiencies found during a roadside check of the vehicle. They included a damaged windshield, lack of a properly installed fire extinguisher and other problems.

In July, the same bus was cited for a damaged windshield, as well as a faulty axle and brakes. In May, its wheel fasteners were loose or missing. 

PHOTOS: California 38 tour bus crash

The violations helped place the company below industry norms for safety. More than 75% of carriers in the same class have a better safety record, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

As a result of the findings from roadside inspections, the Transportation Department had placed Scapadas Magicas on a watch list that prioritized its buses for intervention and roadside inspection.

The driver of the bus in Sunday's crash, as well as passengers, reported that the vehicle was experiencing mechanical problems when the accident occurred, authorities said.

The bus had departed from Tijuana early Sunday and was returning from the ski resort town of Big Bear Lake, in the San Bernardino Mountains, when it crashed about 6:30 p.m. on California  38. The collision involved the bus, a truck and a sedan, officials said.

Some people were ejected from the bus; others were trapped inside. Because of the severity of the crash, it was difficult for rescue workers to immediately determine how many people were killed.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Mario Lopez said late Sunday that all of the known fatalities appeared to come from the bus, which carried 38 passengers, including children. The sedan carried  three people, and the truck had one occupant, officials said.

California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Profant said the bus lost control while going down the curving mountain road and rolled over the truck at least once, crushing it.

The trip had been organized by InterBus Tours, according to a Facebook posting by the company. The post said: "We deeply regret this happened."


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Photo: Investigators work at the scene where at least eight people were killed after a tour bus leaving Big Bear careened out of control. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press