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    Unhappy Death toll in Texas church bus crash rises to 17, exposes unlicensed charter bus operation.

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/08/09/texas.crash/

    SHERMAN, Texas (CNN) -- A seventeenth person has died from injuries suffered in Friday's bus crash in northern Texas, a hospital spokeswoman said Sunday.


    The damaged bus is hauled from the crash scene on a flatbed truck Friday in Sherman, Texas.


    One of 3 photos >>

    The driver of the bus, which was carrying dozens of Vietnamese people on a church trip, apparently lost control on northbound U.S. 75 early Friday.

    The bus smashed into a guardrail before rolling on its side and sliding into a gully. The accident happened near the Texas-Oklahoma state line.

    Twelve people were declared dead at the scene, and four others died at hospitals, officials said.

    Police estimated that, in addition to the deaths, 33 to 39 of the 54 passengers and the driver suffered mild to serious injuries. Watch what investigators are learning about the accident

    The bus was operating illegally, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The National Transportation Safety Board has begun investigating the crash.

    On Friday, NTSB member Debbie Hersman told reporters that the right front tire of the bus had been retreaded, in violation of safety rules. The blown tire was the only one that was recapped, and it was the only one whose tread separated, she said.

    Asked what caused the Goodyear tire to lose its air, she said, "we don't know the answer to that question; that's why we're here."

    The bus itself was made in 2002 by Motor Coach Industries.

    The trip to Carthage, Missouri, had been scheduled by the Vietnamese Catholic Martyrs Church in Houston, though some of the passengers may have belonged to other churches, Hersman said.

    The 52-year-old driver had his commercial driver's license, but his medical certificate had expired, she said.

    Late Friday, police were assisting NTSB investigators with gathering evidence and mapping the scene, documenting the location of witness marks and scars on the highway and bridge rail over an overpass, she said.

    Preliminary evidence suggests that the bus hit a rail on the right side of the bridge and then traveled 1,809 feet before coming to a stop on its right side in the earthen median between the highway and a frontage road, Hersman said.

    "As it dropped off the bridge rail, the bus rolled to the right ... where it came to rest." Watch as the fire chief describes the crash scene

    She noted that the bus was not equipped with seat belts, which are not required on motor coaches.

    In a written statement, motor carrier agency Administrator John H. Hill said investigators noted "certain irregularities ... about whether the bus was operating under the name Angel Tours or Iguala Busmex. It is important to note that neither of these domestic entities is authorized to operate as a U.S. passenger carrier in interstate commerce at this time."

    He added that the agency identified Angel Tours "as being a high-risk carrier due to safety violations detected during roadside safety inspections and was subjected to an FMCSA compliance review in May 2008."

    "This review resulted in FMCSA placing Angel Tours' operations out of service," Hill said. "To date, Angel Tours has not provided the agency with evidence of satisfactory corrective actions to the problems discovered and remains out of service."

    In addition, "FMCSA has not granted Iguala Busmex authority to transport passengers because it has failed to fully comply with federal safety requirements."

    He said police have been asked to stop any of the companies' buses.

    Both companies are owned by Angel de la Torre.

    A man who answered the phone at Angel Tours office said the owner was meeting with his lawyers and was unavailable.

    Massage therapist Leha Nguyen, 45, was a passenger. She was traveling by herself on the bus when she departed Houston at 8:30 p.m. Thursday for what was to have been her fourth trip to Carthage, Missouri.

    After sandwiches were passed around, the group said prayers, and Nguyen began to drift off to sleep in her window seat next to an older woman, four rows behind the driver, she said. iReport.com: Were you there? Send photos, video

    About 11:45 p.m., the bus passed Dallas, "and as soon as we passed Dallas we were on the two-way freeway and I feel the bus ride a little bit fast and I have a feeling, not a safe feeling," she said.

    She added, "I feel a little bit shaky, but I just let myself at peace and then go to sleep."


    Her sleep didn't last long. "As I opened my eyes, I see the chair falling off and I was sitting right below the TV and I felt that somebody was laying on my leg and then right next to me there was a lady, she got her arm really crushed up and on top of her there was another lady, she cannot move."

    Although her head hurt, Nguyen -- who left Vietnam in 1975 as a refugee -- was in better shape than many of her fellow riders. She accepted an ambulance ride to the hospital, where she learned that her seatmate had died. Once her scalp was sewn up, she aided in translating for other Vietnamese patients whose English was not as good.

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    Bus operator has lengthy history of driver, safety violations

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/...n/5933061.html

    By JAMES PINKERTON
    Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
    Aug. 8, 2008, 8:59PM
    23Comments 8Recommend

    Leonardo Carrizo Chronicle
    Angel Tours, the operator of the bus that crashed Friday in North Texas killing 15 people, has a lengthy history of driver, safety equipment and mechanical violations in the state.

    Angel Tours, the operator of the bus that crashed Friday in North Texas killing 15 people, has a lengthy history of driver, safety equipment and mechanical violations in the state. Company drivers have received numerous violations since 2005, according to motor carrier records released to the Houston Chronicle.

    At least 65 violations were uncovered by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers on major state highways, including potentially serious safety shortcomings such as faulty brakes, leaking fuel lines, broken shock absorbers, chafed brake hoses, leaking tires or tires with insufficient tread, and cracked windshields and discharged fire extinguishers.



    Company bus drivers were also cited for operating buses without required corrective glasses or current medical certificates, or driving with expired commercial licenses, or failing to include information on mandatory driver's logs.

    The 22-page file DPS has on Angel Tours shows drivers were notified of at least 65 violations resulting in 13 tickets between 2005 and June of this year.

    Among the most serious violations issued by the DPS Motor Carrier Bureau. were:

    June 12 DPS took an Angel Tours bus out of service in Brownsville after crossing the Mexican border on its way to Houston. Ten violations included shorted wiring in a fuse box, a visible fuel leak at the fuel pump and gas tank, an uninsulated power cable, a bare wire in the fuse box, and an exhaust leak under the bus caused by loose clamps, and brakes on two axles were out of adjustment.
    June 3 DPS issued a ticket for three violations to an Angel Tours driver including having a tire with insufficient tread and missing log information after it was stopped in Chambers County.
    May 26 DPS stopped an Angel Tours driver in Brownsville and cited it for four violations, including a tire with a visible air leak, a chafed brake hose, a broken shock absorber and badly cracked windshield.
    April 18 DPS ticketed an Angel Tours driver in Hidalgo County while it was transporting passengers from Houston to Edinburg, issuing a citation for having an expired inspection certificate.
    April 18 DPS ticketed a second Angel Tours driver for three violations while enroute from Houston to McAllen for not having a valid inspection certificate and two defective stop lights.
    Aug. 6, 2007 DPS ticketed an Angel Tours bus on l-45 in Walker County for not having records of driver duty status and a cracked windshield.
    July 7, 2007 DPS ticketed an Angel Tours driver in Travis County. Violations were issued for the driver not wearing corrective glasses, and for the bus having an expired inspection certificate and a cracked windshield.
    May 29, 2007 DPS stopped an Angel Tours bus in Wharton County and issued a ticket for two violations for failing to carry a reflective triangle and flares.
    May 29, 2007 DPS cited another Angel Tour driver in Walker County for two violations for cracked windshield and unmounted license plate.
    May 19, 2007 DPS trooper issued a ticket to an Angel Tours driver in Guadalupe County for driving without a safety belt during a trip from San Antonio to Houston.
    Dec. 3, 2007 DPS ticketed an Angel Tours driver in Harris County for an invalid commercial driver's license.
    June 13, 2006 DPS issued two tickets to an Angel Tours driver for eight violations in Childress County, including disregarding a traffic signal, an expired license plate, driver's log violations and operating an unregistered bus. The bus was transporting a Boy Scout troop from Houston to Cimmarron.
    Feb. 10, 2006 DPS ticketed an Angel Tours driver and took the bus out of service in Harris County after discovering 12 violations, including a driver without a medical certificate, 10 defective brake and side marker lights, and an unsecured fire extinguisher.
    Nov. 27, 2005 DPS ticketed an Angel Tours driver in Walker County for four violations, including expired inspection certificates, having an empty fire extinguisher and incomplete driver's log.
    July 4, 2005 DPS issued a ticket for four undisclosed violations to an Angel Tours driver in Walker County as the bus was enroute to Dallas from Houston.
    June 4, 2005 DPS issued two tickets to an Angel Tours driver in a leased bus for five violations in Childress County, including a defective license plate light and information missing from driver's log. The bus was carrying 23 passengers from Bethel Church in Houston.

    james.pinkerton@chron.com

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