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
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kentucky clerk invokes ‘God’s authority,’ still refuses gay marriage licenses
- Clinton: Women ‘expect’ extremism from terrorists, not GOP candidates
- Less sleep increases your chance of catching a cold, researchers say
- Russia, China ply cyberdata to exploit U.S. spies
- Supreme Court rules against Kentucky county clerk on gay marriage licenses
- Landfill Atari game cartridges net $100K
- Postal Service falls short of slower mail delivery standards
- Lost hiker survived 9 days with broken leg in California’s Sierra Nevada
- New Orleans slow to heal 10 years after Hurricane Katrina
- Supreme Court has protest-free zone, judges panel rules
- Gas boom brings successes, struggles to W.Va. communities