In a terrifying early morning accident, a tour bus plowed right into the back of a semi-truck driving on Interstate 10 just north of Palm Springs in the wee hours of Sunday morning, killing 13 passengers and injuring another 31, according to authorities. Apparently the passengers were all sleeping just before the bus crashed.
The Coroner’s office of Riverside County confirmed that the 13 people killed were on the bus, including the bus driver. This horrific crash caused the entire westbound Lanes of the 10 Freeway to shut down west of the Indian Canyon Road off ramp, which was where the California Highway Patrol diverted the traffic off the freeway. Around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the freeway was finally reopened, according to the CHP.
Just after the crash, rescuers kept searching through the wreckage trying to find all the victims. Firefighters had to use ladders to reach passengers trapped inside the bus. The passenger compartment of the bus had been pealed back nearly half it’s length from the undercarriage.
The front end of the bus was totally decimated as was the back of the truck by the incredible force of the impact.
There was no clear explanation given for the cause of the collision, however the tour bus was going much faster for some reason, than the semi-truck, said CHP Chief Jim Abele at a news conference.
The trailer portion of the semi ended up being lodged 15 feet into the front end of the bus, according to Abele.
The bus had left the Red Earth Casino, located in Salton City, and was en route to Los Angeles on Interstate 10 when the crash occurred. The CHP received the accident report at 5:17 a.m. USA Holiday Bus, based in Los Angeles, owns the bus.
According to the CHP, there was no skid marks indicating the brakes had been slammed on prior to the bus slamming into the semi-truck driving along in front of it. This leads investigators to surmise that fatigue may have played a role. However, they were still speculating that a medical emergency of some type might have impaired the driver, perhaps a heart attack.
The bus driver, nor any of the deceased passengers, has yet to be identified publicly. It seems that all the passenger were sound asleep at the moment of impact. Although it’s likely they had been all seated properly, many of them wound up at the front of the bus because of the tremendous force of the collision, Abele said.
Abele went on to say that it was very unlikely that the seats in the bus were equipped with seat belts. “In nearly 35 years on the job, I’ve never seen a crash that killed 13 people. It’s very difficult for everyone involved in the investigation as well as the rescue.”
According to CHP reports, 31 passengers received injuries and were transported to Eisenhower Medical Center, JFK Memorial Hospital and Desert Regional Medical Center. Five patients were in critical conditions and the others had less serious injuries.
A trauma surgeon at Palm Spring’s Desert Regional Medical Center reported treating facial injuries, but not many broken bones. He said this is unusual for a vehicle wreck at such a high speed.
Dr. Ricard Townsend told reporters on Sunday that the tour bus crashed into the collapsible trailer of the semi, propelling many of the passengers through the air, since they likely did not have seat belts to keep them restrained.
He said that widespread facial injuries were the hallmark of people not wearing their seat belts. He does say that the injuries he saw indicate the bus was probably slowing down when impact occurred.
Tow trucks had to be used by crews in order to pry the bus out of the back of the semi before they could clear the mangled bus from the freeway.
The driver of the semi-truck suffered injuries as well and was transported to a hospital for treatment.
He told the CHP that he did feel a “thump” at the back of the truck, which was carrying food products, but he had no idea what had actually happened.
The last time the bus was inspected was in April 2016, and before that, in 2014 and 2015, but no mechanical issues turned up on any of these inspections, according to the CHP.
Since the investigation is still in the early stages, all the victims have still not been identified. The CHP is now encouraging family members to contact authorities if they haven’t heard from a loved one, directing them to reach out to the Riverside County Fire Department located at 800 S. Redlands Avenue in Perris, or to phone (951) 443-2300, where a crisis response center is being set up.
Millions of Americans use public and/or private bus transportation every single day. If you or a loved one happened to be a passenger on public transportation when it became involved in accident due to negligence and want to speak with a California bus crash attorney specializing in personal injury and wrongful death cases, contact O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley. We have more than 50 years of successful trial experience litigating such cases. We will answer your questions, explain your legal rights and give you our expert advice on how to take action to protect your rights.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP