Brakes key concern in deadly Calif. crash

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 8:24 p.m.

YUCAIPA, Calif. — Federal and state investigators searched on Tuesday in the mangled wreckage of a California tour bus for the cause of a weekend crash that left seven people dead and injured dozens of others.

Authorities targeted the brakes and other equipment for clues about why the driver lost control on a two-lane mountain highway in the San Bernardino Mountains on the way back to Tijuana, Mexico, after a trip to the snow.

The roadworthiness of the 1996 bus loomed as a key issue because the driver told investigators that the brakes failed as he descended from the popular Big Bear ski area. Federal records pointed to a history of brake-maintenance problems with the European-made bus.

“We are going to look very closely at the brakes, as we will every other mechanical system on the bus,” National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss said.

Opening a review that could take months, investigators for the California Highway Patrol and NTSB began collecting evidence on the bus, road conditions and possible driver error or fatigue that could have played a role in the crash.

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