Thirteen people are dead and dozens of others injured after a tour bus collided with a tractor-trailer near Palm Springs, Calif., Sunday morning on its return to Los Angeles from a casino run.
The 1996 MCI bus, registered to USA Holiday, was traveling at an excessive rate of speed when it rammed the back of a tractor trailer, California Highway Patrol division Chief Jim Abele told CNN. The collision occurred on Interstate 10 westbound at 5:17 a.m.
“The speed of the bus was so significant that when it hit the back of the big rig … the trailer itself entered about 15 feet into the bus,” Capt. Abele told CNN, adding that most of the passengers killed were sitting toward the front of the bus. The bus driver was among the 13 fatalities.
Thirty-one passengers and the driver of the tractor trailer were taken to the hospital with injuries ranging from moderate to life-threatening. Five of the injured passengers are being treated at the intensive care unit at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs.
USA Holiday owns and operates one bus, according to federal transportation records. The bus shuttles people from Los Angeles to the Red Earth Casino near the Salton Sea, about two hours east of Los Angeles. The bus transports people from LA to the casino three times per week, leaving at 8:20 p.m. and returning to LA in the early morning.
Transportation records show the bus had been inspected annually as required by law, with the most recent inspection being performed in April 2016. No mechanical problems were found with the bus and authorities gave the company a “satisfactory” rating.
Sunday’s crash is one of the deadliest bus crashes in California’s history. Some of the emergency responders told the press that the accident was the worst they had ever seen.
CHP closed all lanes of I-10 so first responders could access and treat the injured passengers. “There were so many injuries that they had to establish an emergency triage right there and treat the people right there on the scene,” Capt. Abele told CNN.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has sent investigators to the crash scene. CHP will also conduct an investigation. Investigators are looking into whether drugs, alcohol, driver fatigue, distraction, medical emergency, mechanical failure, traffic, and other factors contributed to the crash.
Capt. Abele said there was no fog in the area at the time, but that traffic had slowed in the area because maintenance crews were laying wires across the interstate.