Dozens of passengers were injured Thursday morning when a low-cost tour bus headed to a casino crashed on a freeway in Irwindale, Calif., about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. At least eight of the passengers required hospitalization for critical injuries.
The bus was owned and operated by a Monterey Park-based company, Da Zhen, which offers one- and two-day trips to California and Las Vegas casinos and other transportation services that are popular with the Chinese community in the San Gabriel Valley. Both the company and the driver of the bus, a Chinese national who has been living in the U.S. for several years, are being interviewed by California Highway Patrol investigators.
The bus passengers, all adults ages 60 to 80, were supposed to arrive at the San Miguel Indian Bingo & Casino around 10:30 a.m.
Some passengers interviewed by police authorities and local media said that they were uncomfortable with the driver’s speed shortly before the bus crashed just south of the 210 and 605 interchange. The bus careened off the freeway and toppled over on its side before coming to a rest by some railroad tracks.
Data on record with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates commercial buses and trucks, showed that Da Zhen has a poor safety record. This year alone, Da Zhen has been cited three times for “unsafe driving,” including two violations for speeding.
The crash injured 55 people, including three who were in other vehicles that were involved in a collision with the bus.
Although speeding is being eyed as a potential cause of the crash, investigators say it’s still too early to tell whether driver error was a factor. Authorities are also conducting a thorough mechanical inspection of the bus.