When brakes fail on tourist bus, panic, prayers, carnage ensue
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
TribLive commenting policy
- Nurse defies Maine quarantine in standoff over Ebola
- Few knew of cyber attack on White House computer network
- Unaccompanied immigrants put heavy strain on schools, charities
- Botched probe of suspected arms dealer echoed Fast and Furious, watchdog finds
- Museum saves part of bomber plant
- Terminally ill woman may delay planned Nov. 1 suicide
- Ferguson grand jury cleared in leaks about police shooting of black teenager
- Bankruptcy judge to rule Nov. 7 on Detroit’s ‘Grand Bargain’
- Feds berated as behind ball on Ebola
- Wash. shooting survivor has jaw surgery
- Plane slams into pilot training center at Kansas airport, killing 4