The driver of a truck that spilled its load of metal pipes onto a California highway early Wednesday morning, killing four tour bus passengers and injuring several others, was operating with a blemished safety record and an expired registration, the Orange County Register reported Thursday.
Driver Victor Esteban Galvan, the owner-operator of VG Transport, which he runs out of his Rialto, Calif., home, had hours-of-service violations for driving more than eight hours without taking a break and an expired medical certificate. Registration for the tractor trailer he was driving at the time of the crash had expired in January, according to California Department of Motor Vehicles records.
A random inspection conducted in Arizona last October found that Mr. Galvan had been operating his 2006 truck without required periodic inspections. The same check also found that he had failed to keep his driving log current
The crash occurred on I-10 near Blythe, Calif., about 2:15 a.m. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) said that Mr. Galvan was trying to pass slower vehicles in a 70-mph zone when his truck veered onto the dirt shoulder. Mr. Galvan then lost control of the vehicle and it jackknifed, causing its load of metal pipes to fall out across all traffic lanes.
Two eastbound traffic vehicles hit the pipes almost immediately. Nobody was hurt in either of those vehicles.
A passenger bus operated by El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express Inc. was driving west and swerved to avoid the pipes, causing it to skid off the shoulder and through a fence. The bus plunged about 50 feet down an embankment and landed on its left side.
Four of the 32 bus passengers died and several others were taken to hospitals in Blythe, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Calif., and Parker, Ariz. A Riverside County official told the Orange County Register that several of the passengers were airlifted by helicopter in critical condition. A number of others were listed in serious condition.
Neither Mr. Galvan nor the driver of the bus, who had switched with the previous driver at a stop in Phoenix, were injured.