In the early morning hours of October 23, 2016, a tour bus returning passengers to the Los Angeles area from a casino slammed into a big rig near Palm Springs. The California tour bus crash was reported at 5:17 a.m. on the westbound side of Interstate 10, just before Indian Canyon Drive. Thirteen people lost their lives and 31 others sustained injuries in what will go down as one of the deadliest bus crashes the state of California has seen in decades.
Prior to the fatal accident, marked California Highway Patrol cars had been slowing and stopping traffic along that stretch of Interstate 10 so that workers from Southern California Edison could fix electrical wires that ran over the road. According to the CHP, traffic had begun to move again before the crash but was moving at a significantly slower speed than the posted limit.
Read USA Holiday Casino Bus Crash Updates
This was the scene when the 1996 MCI bus operated by USA Holiday viciously rear-ended the trailer section of the big rig at a “significant” speed. The bus driver, 59-year-old Teodulo Vides, was among those killed in the crash. Vides was the owner and sole operator of USA Holiday, which has a checkered safety record, according to investigators.
Mr. Vides had previously been sued on at least two occasions for negligence after collisions with other vehicles. One of those accidents resulted in three fatalities. As a driver, he had been cited for various traffic violations in several counties. As for his company, USA Holiday, it received “unsatisfactory” ratings from the California Highway Patrol on six different occasions prior to the accident in Palm Springs.
Worst California Bus Crash Since 1976
The night before the Palm Springs tour bus crash, passengers were picked up by the USA Holiday tour bus at the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. The trip was to take passengers to the Red Earth Casino in Thermal, not far from the Salton Sea. USA Holiday has previously used social media platforms to advertise casino trips like this one, offering $20 tickets that covered round-trip travel to the casino for over four hours of gambling.
According to investigators, the USA Holiday tour bus left Red Earth Casino at around 4:00 a.m. Many of those onboard were fast asleep as the bus continued west on Interstate 10 through the Palm Springs area.
Just before dawn, passengers were jolted awake by the shuddering sounds of screaming over crumpled steel and broken glass. The tour bus had slammed into the trailer section of a big rig with brutal force. Emergency responders said the impact was so severe that the trailer entered roughly 15 feet into the bus.
California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Jim Abele, whose career in law enforcement has spanned over three decades, told the media that he had never seen an accident like this. “It’s tough…you never get used to this,” Abele said.
The USA Holiday bus was not equipped with seat belts, something that bus safety experts have long called for. As a result, bus passengers were hurled through the air at impact. Nearly all of the fatal injuries were consistent with blunt force trauma.
Survivors of USA Holiday Tour Bus Crash Describe the Horror
Miguel Martinez was one of a dozen or so injured passengers who were transported to Eisenhower Medical Center in the wake of the Palm Springs tour bus crash. Wiping away tears, the 66-year-old recalled in Spanish the moments before the tragedy struck.
The truck reportedly was moving very slowly as the tour bus approached. According to Mr. Martinez, the bus driver slammed on the brakes and the vehicle skidded for several yards before it impacted with the trailer section of the big rig.
Mr. Martinez’s account of the impact differs from the California Highway Patrol’s investigation, which found that the skid marks at the crash scene came as the truck’s tires were forced forward after the collision.
Mr. Martinez told reporters that he will never forget what he saw next: “The front six rows, where 12 people had been sitting, were squashed together. Everyone, dead and alive, was covered with blood.” Martinez said he was “one of the lucky ones” who happened to be seated near the rear of the bus when disaster struck.
Like many of the passengers, 61-year-old Ana Car said she was fast asleep before the Palm Springs tour bus crash. Car told the Los Angeles Times that she woke up to the sounds of chaos. In the immediate aftermath of the Palm Springs tour bus crash, she recalls seeing a woman lying in the center aisle, screaming, “My legs! My legs!”
Car credited a number of anonymous good Samaritans who stopped at the scene of the Palm Springs tour bus crash to help the victims. She said several people were helping to pull victims out of the wreckage before firefighters arrived at the scene. When Car was finally pulled out of the bus, she said all she could do was stand on the side of the highway and cry because there were still so many of her fellow passengers who remained trapped in the wreckage, and in far worse condition than she.
Another passenger, 65-year-old Jose Guerrero, was among the first to be helped out of the bus after the crash. Mr. Guerrero, who was sleeping in the back of the bus, remembers hearing the sound of screams as he woke up on the floor of the bus with blood on his lip and forehead.
Victims of Palm Springs Bus Accident Identified
The victims include 72-year-old Zoila Aguilera; 72-year-old Milagros Gonzales; 71-year-old Ana Gomes de Magallon; 69-year-old Yolanda Mendoza; 69-year-old Dora Galvez de Rodriguez; 66-year-old Isabel Jimenez Hernandez; 63-year-old Aracely Tije; 62-year-old Gustavo Green; 59-year-old Teodulo Vides; 57-year-old Conception Corvera; 53-year-old Rosa Ruiz; 52-year-old Elvia Sanchez; 50-year-old Tony Mai. All of the victims except for Corvera were from the Los Angeles area. According to reports, Corvera was from Palmdale.
USA Holiday at a Glance
USA Holiday was owned by Teodulo Elias Vides, who perished in the Palm Springs accident. As the sole operator of USA Holiday, Mr. Vides had a checkered safety record.
According to a number of reports, Mr. Vides had previously been sued twice for negligence after two different accidents, one of which resulted in three fatalities. The 2007 crash on the 215 Freeway in Riverside between a USA Holiday bus and a Honda Civic killed the driver of the car, Sylvia Saucedo, and her two passengers, Maria Llamas and Julio Morales.
The family of Maria Llamas retained a bus accident lawyer and filed a civil suit against Vides and the USA Holiday bus driver, Paulino Camacho Ceballos, alleging negligence. The case ultimately dismissed because the plaintiffs failed to respond to discovery requests.
Mr. Vides and USA Holiday were named in an earlier bus crash lawsuit stemming from a 2003 accident. The lawsuit, which also alleged negligence on the part of USA Holiday, was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Aside from being named in bus crash lawsuits, USA Holiday had previously received at least six “unsatisfactory” ratings from the California Highway Patrol. As a bus driver, Mr. Vides himself had received traffic violation citations in several counties.
In 2005, Mr. Vides was pulled over on Interstate 10 for speeding. In 2007, he was issued a citation by the California Public Utilities Commission for operating a motorcoach with an expired permit. In 2011, Mr. Vides was pulled over in Santa Barbara County twice for lane straddling and was again cited for speeding and driving with a suspended license not far from where the Palm Springs crash occurred.
Tour Bus Crash Highlights Glaring Failures in Bus Safety Oversight
Bus crash lawyers at Baum Hedlund who have successfully represented victims of bus crashes in California and across the country, believe there are several key bus safety issues involved in the Palm Springs crash.
It has been reported from a number of media outlets that the USA Holiday tour bus was not equipped with seat belts for passengers. If there had been seat belts on the bus, it is possible, if not likely, that lives may have been saved and injuries may not have been as severe.
Another issue that will be at the center of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation will be driver fatigue, which is one of the most common factors in bus crashes. Advertising material for USA Holiday indicates that casino trips depart from Los Angeles at 8:30 p.m., and passengers are given over four hours to gamble before making the trip back home. This means that the bus driver likely started the trip back at around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m.
Investigators will also look into whether the USA Holiday bus driver was distracted while driving. Like fatigue, distracted driving is a common factor in all accidents.
The speed of the bus has also been widely discussed among investigators. Why was the bus going so much faster than the truck at the moment of impact? Furthermore, reports have indicated that the bus did not appear to slow down before the collision. Both of these factors could be indicators for fatigued or distracted driving.
In addition to the bus and its driver, investigators will also be looking into the actions of the truck and its driver. For example, why was the truck where it was on Interstate 10 at the moment of impact? Did the driver make an unsafe lane change before the crash?
These questions will all need to be closely examined by the NTSB.
How Do You Find the Best Bus Accident Lawyer?
In the wake of a bus accident, victims are often disoriented from the physical and emotional pain of being injured or losing a loved one. On top of figuring out how to cope with lost wages from not being able to work or cover the costs of medical bills, crash victims are forced to deal with calls from bus company representatives and/or its insurance carriers.
Make no mistake; bus companies and their insurers will go to extreme lengths to limit their liability in a bus crash. While you and your loved ones are recovering from a crash, the bus company and its legal team will be doing everything possible to build a robust defense and minimize victims’ claims. They may even offer a quick and easy settlement that amounts significantly less than what victims deserve.
This is why you need an experienced bus accident lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected. Baum Hedlund has handled cases involving some of the largest bus companies in the country, and has negotiated with or litigated against countless insurance companies.
About Baum Hedlund
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman has a long history of handling bus crash cases. Our team of bus crash lawyers has represented hundreds of victims in commercial ground transportation crash cases across the nation, including more than 90 bus crash cases involving various types of buses:
- Casino bus
- Tour bus
- Chartered bus
- City bus
- Greyhound bus
- Party bus
- School bus
Our extensive experience handling bus crash cases:
- More than 90 bus crash cases handled across the nation since 1988
- $6,200,000 settlement obtained for a single bus passenger
- 27 passengers represented in a single crash
- Extensive experience with complex choice of law and difficult insurance coverage issues
- Bus Accident Litigation Group Advisory Board Member for the American Association for Justice
- Succeeded in getting U.S. jurisdiction in foreign crashes (England and Mexico)
- International grass-roots safety campaign to move the fuel tank to a safer location on school buses
- The firm’s successful bus litigation is featured in the book, “Reckless Disregard”
Our office is currently litigating wrongful death and two injury cases stemming from the April 10, 2014 tragedy in Orland, California, involving a Silverado Stages chartered tour bus, which was transporting students from Southern California to visit Humboldt State University in Northern California, and a FedEx truck. Ten people on the bus died and more than thirty were injured when the truck crossed a highway median, hitting the bus head-on.
Bus Crash Lawyer
If you or a loved one were a passenger aboard the USA Holiday bus that crashed near Palm Springs on October 23, 2016, it is in your best interest to speak with a bus crash lawyer about your potential claim. Commercial bus companies and the drivers they employ have a duty to operate their vehicles safely. That includes making sure that each and every bus that is on the road meets federal safety standards.
When bus companies fail to properly maintain their vehicles or drivers are negligent behind the wheel, passengers have the right to seek compensation by filing a bus crash lawsuit.
The law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman has long worked to bring justice to victims of negligence and recklessness by bus operators, and have been advocates for the safety and improved regulations for many years. Our team of bus crash lawyers has recovered millions in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. We are determined to make sure every aspect of the Palm Springs tragedy is examined thoroughly.
If you are interested in learning more about filing a claim, give us a call at (855) 948-5098 or fill out this form.
USA Holiday Casino Bus Crash Updates
Federal Insurance Minimum Not Enough for Bus Crash Victims
November 6, 2016
The USA Holiday tour bus that crashed just outside of Palm Springs last month carried the exact federal insurance minimum—$5 million. That amount is what will go toward covering the needs of passengers who were injured, as well as the families who lost loved ones in the fatal bus accident.
At first glance, some might say $5 million seems like a lot of money. Though when you start to factor in the number of people that died, the ambulance rides and hospital visits immediately following the accident, the future medical expenses to continue treating those injuries, plus covering the loss of income for victims who cannot work, that $5 million is far less than the bare minimum needed to cover the horrific damage done in this crash.
Families File Bus Crash Lawsuit Over Palm Springs Accident
October 26, 2016
The families of two men killed in the Palm Springs tour bus crash on October 23, 2016, have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the bus company and the estate of the driver, 59-year-old Teodulo Vides, who died in the accident.
The bus crash lawsuit, which is the first stemming from last Sunday’s fatal accident, was filed by the families of Tony Mai and Gustavo Garcia Green. According to the allegations, Mr. Vides failed to drive the USA Holiday tour bus at a safe speed and failed to brake in order to avoid the collision with a big rig. The lawsuit also claims that the USA Holiday tour bus was not properly maintained.
NTSB: USA Holiday Bus Had Heavily Worn Tires
October 25, 2016
A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told reporters at a news conference that the USA Holiday tour bus that crashed on the morning of October 23 had heavily worn tires. Earl Weener of the NTSB said the USA Holiday bus would have been put out of service if it had been subjected to inspection prior to the fatal bus accident on I-10.
Investigators found that four of the eight tires on the bus had treads that were too thin to be in accordance with standards set by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. The worn tires were located in the front of the bus (steer-axle) and in the middle (drive-axle). In the news conference, NTSB officials were quick to point out that it is still too early in the investigation to speculate whether or not the worn tires were a factor in the Palm Springs tour bus crash.