PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Investigators continue to work Monday to determine what caused one of the deadliest crashes in California in recent years. Thirteen people were killed Sunday after a tour bus slammed into the back of a big rig on
Thirty one others were injured in the predawn crash, which shut down the westbound side of the freeway, according to the
“It was a substantial impact,” Abele said, explaining that the bus plowed 15 feet into the back of the truck.
Sunday's pre-dawn crash took place about 100 miles east of Los Angeles as California Highway Patrol officers slowed traffic to allow utility workers to string wires across Interstate 10.
The bus, which had 43 passengers, was on its way back from Red Earth Casino in the
All victims were adults, the chief described the survivors' injuries as minor to moderate and said the big rig's driver also suffered minor injuries.
He did not give the nationalities of the victims, but said authorities were in contact with consular officials of Mexico, Japan and Australia and that most of the passengers were Latino. He said authorities have struggled to identify some of the passengers and contact their families, partly because some of them were not carrying "valid" identification.
The tour bus belonged to USA Holiday, a Los Angeles-based tour company, which only owns one bus and has one driver licensed to transport passengers, according to records from the
Abele said the agency inspected the bus in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and found no mechanical violations. The bus is a 1996 model, however, and probably did not have a black box device that could provide investigators with information about what was happening on the bus in the minutes before the crash.
USA Holiday regularly carries passengers from the
USA Holiday did not return requests for comment.
Red Earth Casino is a small casino in remote Imperial County operated by the
Patients were taken to all three Coachella Valley hospitals. Desert Regional Medical Center, which has the valley's only trauma center, was treating 14 patients.
By Sunday evening, four patients remained in critical condition; one patient, in serious condition, was received as a transfer from another local hospital; one patient was transferred to a hospital in Los Angeles for continuing treatment and nine patients had been treated and released from the hospital, director of marketing Rich Ramhoff said.
Trauma surgeon Dr. Ricard Townsend said the critical patients were in stable condition and seven had already been discharged. He said all the patients he came into contact with spoke only Spanish.
Townsend wouldn't talk about specific injuries, but he said many patients came in with facial trauma requiring eye surgery. He said this is often indicative of patients who were not wearing seat belts, but did not know whether seat belts were available on the vehicle.
No one was expected to be hospitalized long and Townsend said everyone would probably recover.
JFK Medical Center in Indio, Calif., received five patients who had minor injuries, Chief Development Officer
The crash was among the deadliest in California in years. In April 2014, 10 people were killed in a fiery crash near Orland, Calif., when a
After that crash, the NTSB also urged the
Contributing: Corinne Kennedy, Ian James and Sherry Barkas, The (