HWY 99 Bus Crash Leaves 5 Dead in Merced County
A charter tour bus crashed in Merced County early Tuesday morning, killing at least five people on board. According to California Highway Patrol, the accident was reported just after 3:00 am, on northbound Highway 99, close to Liberty Avenue south of Livingston. Details of the deadly bus crash are still emerging, but officials have confirmed that at least 30 passengers were on the bus at the time of the accident. The vehicle was headed from Mexico en route to Washington State, with planned stops in Livingston and Sacramento.
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke told the AP that the charter bus veered off Highway 99 and then slammed into the pole of a highway sign, which sliced through the center of the vehicle before stopping “with a great impact.” The vehicle was registered to Autobuses Coordinados USA Inc. — headquartered in Los Angeles. Officers say the accident marks one of the worst ever in Merced County in more than 10 years.
“When I first got there, I could hear people screaming from inside of the bus,” Warnke told the Merced Sun-Star. “Several people had been ejected and were lying in the ditch. It was harder to get to them immediately because of the amount of diesel fuel that had spilled.”
Livingston bus crash kills 5, injures several others
The accident scene reminded the local deputy coroner – a former Marine — of bombed out buses he’d seen in action. Many of the injured passengers suffered severed limbs from the sharp metal pole. Ambulances and helicopters transported at least 15 victims to area hospitals, some of whom waited for several hours as emergency responders attempted to rescue them.
The driver of the tour bus was later identified as Mario David Vasquez, age 57. Vasquez, a resident of Los Angeles, was one of the many who suffered critical injuries. Moises Onsurez of the CHP confirms that Vasquez was airlifted to an area-hospital along with several of the passengers.
The horrific bus accident shut down Northbound Highway 99 – one of the key arteries within San Joaquin Valley. The CHP has yet to announce when it will re-open as investigations continue.
According to Warnke, the bus was scheduled to arrive in Livingston at 1:30 a.m. in order to change drivers.
Questions of legal liability arise
It is too soon to tell if distracted driving or driver fatigue played a role in the crash. As authorities discover more information about the cause of the accident, injured victims and the family of those who were killed may leverage evidence in the pursuit of legal reparations through a personal injury attorney.
Civil action may be warranted if it is found that the bus company failed to properly train the driver in question, failed to maintain the bus in safe working order, or failed to address known mechanical problems that led to the crash. Investigations and reconstruction experts will unveil whether the bus company had previous safety violations and/or whether or not the company was compliant with pre-employment drug screening for drivers as well.
The Los Angeles car accident lawyers at Ellis Law have extensive experience handling commercial vehicle accident cases, helping victims recover for both economic and non-economic losses. Juries in California and other states have routinely awarded multi-million dollar judgments to the relatives of those who were killed in bus crashes caused by negligence.
To arrange a free and confidential legal consultation with a personal injury lawyer, please dial 310-641-3335.