Regular rider to Calif. casinos missed bus that crashed

LOS ANGELES — Marta Linares, 67, had been riding the USA Holiday bus to casinos regularly for more than a year.

She missed the bus for Saturday's trip to Red Earth Casino.

On Monday, Linares said she still had goosebumps, realizing she could've died had she made the trip.

The bus, which routinely carried people from Los Angeles to casinos in Southern California for short overnight trips, crashed early Sunday morning on Interstate 10, killing 13 people and injuring 31 more.

"My friends hugged me, my daughter broke down in tears. She said, 'Mom, I don't know what I would've done if you were on that bus,'" Linares said.

"I know of three friends who did not survive," she added.

Linares said Teodulo Elias Vides, the owner of USA Holiday who was driving the bus and was killed in Sunday's crash, was a good driver and she had never had a problem with him.

USA Holiday visited casinos daily, she said. The bus usually left at 8 p.m. People would play until 3 or 4 a.m., while Vides slept. Passengers packed blankets and pillows to sleep on their way home.

Vides liked to play music while he drove, mostly 1960s rock 'n' roll like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Linares said.

Half a dozen people were gathered outside Vides' Alhambra home on Monday, and a small memorial of candles and white roses had taken shape. More met at the corner of Vermont Avenue and Olympic Boulevard, where the bus departed for many of its trips, to mourn crash victims.

Sifrido Argudo was a neighbor of Vides and had helped the driver jump-start his pickup truck a few years ago. Argudo said Vides was from Central America, and both spoke Spanish. They began waving at one another and talking casually.

Argudo said the bus driver was married and had a son in his late teens. Argudo hadn't seen the family in a few days.

"He was my friend," said Argudo, a Vietnam veteran originally from Ecuador. "He used to say 'hi' to me when he walked by. Too bad he passed away."

Follow Gustavo Solis and Rosalie Murphy on Twitter: @JournoGoose and @rozmurph


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