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Mr. Linsky
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Joined: 16 Apr 2007
Posts: 5071

PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 12:31 am    Post subject: 'BUS CRASH KILLS 15 IN TEXAS' Reply with quote

As seen in today's New York Times;


Published: August 8, 2008

An illegally operated bus carrying a group of Vietnamese Roman Catholics to a religious gathering skidded off a Texas highway early Friday morning and turned over, leaving at least 15 people dead and dozens more injured.

The bus operator had a long record of safety violations and was not authorized to take trips across state lines, according to federal regulators, who had yet to determine the cause of the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board said Friday evening that the right front tire had been recapped, which is legal for back tires but not front ones. In the wreckage, that tire was flat, but it was not clear whether the tire had blown and sent the bus into a guard rail, or whether it burst when it hit the guard rail.

The wreck occurred just after midnight near Sherman, Tex., about 60 miles north of Dallas. The bus, carrying 55 people, had been chartered by two Houston churches to transport parishioners to Marian Days, an annual gathering of Vietnamese Catholics in Missouri.

Twelve people died at the scene, and three other passengers died later at hospitals. Dozens of injured passengers, ranging from children to the elderly, were taken to hospitals and several were in critical condition as of Friday evening. The driver was injured but survived. No one on the bus escaped injury.

The bus hit the guard rail and traveled 180 feet before it flipped over the rail.

The operator of the bus, Angel de la Torre, owns a company, Angel Tours, that was barred in June from making trips across state lines after federal regulators cited a string of serious safety violations. In late June, Mr. de la Torre applied for a new permit under a different company name, Iguala Busmex, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration refused that request, also for safety reasons. But safety board records show previous cases of the agency’s revoking a charter operator’s permission to operate without actually stopping the operations.

“I’m sorry that this happened,” Mr. de la Torre said Friday outside his office, in a wooden and metal shack in eastern Houston. “That’s all I have to say.”

His lawyer, Keena Greyling, said Mr. de la Torre was cooperating with the investigation. “We have no comment other than this is a horrible tragedy and everybody is dealing with it,” Ms. Greyling said. “Our hearts go out to everybody involved.”

Police officers who arrived at the scene of the crash found the smashed vehicle lying on its right side just off a stretch of Highway 75. Baggage and bodies were strewn amid the wreckage.

“I felt somebody laying on my leg next to me,” said a passenger, Leha Nguyen, 45, who was injured in the crash. “A lady’s arm was crushed up. On top of her, another lady could not move.”

Many of the passengers spoke only Vietnamese, the police said.

“What do you say when you see bodies all over the place and screaming for help and they’re talking a language you don’t understand?” Lt. Robert Fair, of the Sherman Police Department, told The Dallas Morning News. “That’s pretty much the definition of chaotic.”

The passengers had rented the bus for a trip to Marian Days, an annual event named for the Virgin Mary and convened by a religious order called the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix. Thousands of Vietnamese Catholics travel to the group’s headquarters in Carthage for the event, which began in the late 1970s.

The Rev. Dominic Trinh, pastor at Our Lady of Lavang in Houston, said this was the first year that his church had used Mr. de la Torre’s bus company for the trip.

“Anything that happens is God’s providence,” Father Trinh said, when asked what he would tell mourning parishioners. “We must trust in God and put the people in God’s hand. And pray, just pray for them.”

A hospital chaplain who prayed with injured passengers after the crash said they were a close-knit group.

“They speak of cousins as if they were their brothers,” said the chaplain, David E. Taylor of Wilson N. Jones Medical Center in Sherman. “There is a kind of multiplied grief. They are grieving not for one, but for all.”

Thayer Evans contributed reporting from Houston, Pamela Gwyn Kripke from Sherman, Tex., and Matthew L. Wald from Washington.

Photo by Jim Mahoney - Dallas Morning News

Mr. Linsky - Green Bus Lines, Inc., Jmaica, NY

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