TribLIVE

| USWorld


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

When brakes fail on tourist bus, panic, prayers, carnage ensue

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Associated Press
Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, 9:29 p.m.
 

YUCAIPA, Calif. — The bus full of tired tourists from Mexico was slowly winding its way down the mountain from the ski resort of Big Bear when it suddenly picked up speed. The driver shouted to call 911 — the brakes had failed.

As passengers frantically tried to get a cellphone signal, teen girls shrieked and prayed aloud. Others cried and shielded their heads as they careened downhill.

The bus rear-ended a Saturn sedan, swerved, flipped and slid on its side. A Ford pickup in the oncoming lane plowed into it, righting the bus and tossing passengers out shattered windows.

“Everything happened so fast. When the bus spun everything flew, even the people,” said Gerardo Barrientos, who was next to his girlfriend one minute and scrambling out of the wreckage the next to find her and a friend on the road, injured but alive amid the carnage.

Seven people were killed and dozens injured on Sunday in the accident 80 miles east of Los Angeles. On Monday, families from Tijuana anxiously sought loved ones in hospitals.

Investigators searched the scene for evidence and scrutinized the company's safety history. Government records showed the bus, operated by Scapadas Magicas of National City, Calif., recorded 22 safety violations in inspections over a year — including brake, windshield and tire problems.

The crash littered State Route 38 with body parts, winter clothing and debris. The battered bus stretched across both lanes — its windows blown out, front end crushed and part of the roof peeled back like a tin can.

“There are very, very horrendous images in my head, things I don't want to think about,” Barrientos said as he and his girlfriend, Lluvia Ramirez, who both work at a hospital in Tijuana, waited in the Loma Linda University Medical Center emergency room.

“I was overwhelmed,” Ramirez said. “I'm a surgical resident, and I usually know how to react, but I was so in shock I didn't know what to do.”

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. U.S. Customs loses track of 6K students who overstayed visas
  2. Maryland doctor will give up license
  3. Eco-friendly focus offered preschoolers
  4. Closer seats don’t sit well with some fliers
  5. City makes case as bankruptcy trial begins for Detroit
  6. Judge frees 2 N.C. men convicted in 1983 rape, killing
  7. Corruption case against former Va. governor handed over to jury
  8. Appeals court hears debate in NSA phone record collection case
  9. Suit filed by 4 Cincinnati-area black students over expulsion
  10. Feds cleared of some abuse claims by illegals
  11. Princeton, worker seek solution on medical marijuana use on the job
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.