Soledad, California, tour bus accident driver of an Orion Pacific tour bus had been involved in pedestrian accident seriously injuring a woman in a Las Vegas crosswalk four years ago, the Associated Press reports. The driver, 69-year-old John Egnew of Corona, died after he crashed the tour bus loaded with French tourists, into a guardrail on Highway 101 on April 28, 2009. Egnew himself was ejected from the tour bus and died of head and neck injuries.
In the 2005 Las Vegas pedestrian-bus accident, Egnew said he did not see 71-year-old Joan Smith when he hit her with a bus, as she and her husband were crossing the street. Smith was knocked backwards and struck her head on the pavement. The bus continued rolling on top of Smith before backing off. Smith apparently suffered brain injuries and a fractured pelvis in that tour bus accident. The bus company involved in the pedestrian accident reached a $750,000 agreement with Smith and her husband last year. Egnew also pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor count of “starting improperly from a stopped position.” Investigators are still looking into what might have caused Egnew to lose control of the bus this week that cost him and four others their lives.
The Associated Press reports that Weeks Enterprises, an Orange County-based company owns the tour bus operator, Orion Pacific. The company has had a solid safety record in the two years leading up to the Soledad bus crash. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is the federal agency that regulates commercial interstate travel, this particular carrier has not been involved in accidents in any state for the last 30 months. The agency also conducted 14 random roadside inspections. There were reportedly no driver issues or problems with any of the company’s 12 buses. The National Transportation Safety Board also announced that the California Highway Patrol will take the lead on investigating this fatal Soledad bus crash.
Details seem to be slowly emerging about the fatal California bus accident. One French tourist, Giles Gomes, who was released from the hospital, said he heard comments from fellow passengers that the bus seemed to be having problems. Gomes himself said he thought the driver was going too fast. In fact, everybody was complaining there was something wrong with the bus, he told the media. CHP officials are collecting witness statements and physical evidence such as the position of the bus, debris at the site and the bus itself.
These are all disturbing details. The one that concerns me the most is the passenger’s statement that there was something “wrong with the bus.” Did the driver leave knowing that there were mechanical problems? The fact that there were no problems with the company’s buses earlier does not rule out the fact that this bus may not have been properly maintained. Also, Egnew may have been negligent by driving the bus when he knew that the bus was having mechanical problems. If I were representing the bus crash victims in this California bus accident case, I would ensure the bus is preserved in its current crashed condition, unaltered, so it can be examined for product defects, mechanical malfunction or other evidence. The victims of this bus rollover would be well-advised to immediately contact an experienced California bus accident lawyer who will take steps right away, to protect their rights. Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys would be more than happy to provide counsel to victims of this horrific bus crash. Our hearts go out to all the victims and their families. We sincerely hope they find the help and guidance they need during this very difficult time.