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Fatal Texas Bush Crash Yields Lawsuit

Aug 14, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A man who lost two family members in last week's Texas bus crash is suing the maker of the vehicle, as well as its driver and owner. Plaintiff Lau Pham's mother-in-law, Cham Nguyen, and sister-in-law, Catherine Tran, were among the 17 who died as a result of the accident last Friday morning.  His wife, Bich Ngoc Tran., was also injured in the tragedy.

Friday's bus accident was the nation's deadliest since 2005.  Initial reports said that the charter bus blew an illegally treaded tire, skidded off the highway and overturned.

The bus involved in the accident was registered to Iguala Busmex. The Houston-based company is owned by Angel De La Torre. According to the Dallas Morning News, De La Torre De la Torre opened Iguala Busmex three days after federal investigators banned one of his other companies, Angel Tours, from interstate travel after finding safety violations. Apparently, that is perfectly legal under current federal motor carrier regulations. Iguala Busmex had received a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number but had not been approved for operation at the time of the accident.

Following Friday’s tragedy, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said that “grossly deficient vehicle maintenance” contributed the accident. The agency ordered Iguala Busmex, and  Angel Tours to cease commercial operations Sunday, after finding that the companies posed an “imminent hazard.” A second order issued to De La Torre, said that his “activities in connection with motor carrier operations pose an ‘imminent hazard’ to the public.”

Earlier this week, authorities  released the driving record of the bus driver, 52-year-old Barrett Wayne Broussard. Since 2001, he has been cited by police three times — once for driving while intoxicated and twice for speeding. Broussard has also failed roadside inspections twice in the last year, both times resulting in his vehicle being taken out of service for driver logbook violations.  When the second violation occurred, Broussard was driving for Angel Tours.  Broussard, who was injured in the bus accident, is still hospitalized in critical condition.

Pham's lawsuit, filed in state district court in Texas, is asking for unspecified actual and punitive damages.  It names Angel de la Torre and his bus firms Angel Tours Inc., Iguala BusMex Inc. and Iguala Bus Ltd. Co. as defendants.   Also included were the bus driver and Motor Coach Industries Inc., the bus manufacturer.  The lawsuit cites the defendants with negligence.

State District Judge John T. Wooldridge has already granted a request included in the suit that prevents the bus or other evidence from being altered until Pham's attorneys and their accident experts can investigate them.  A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for August 25.


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