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Owner in Texas Bus Crash Reportedly Cut Corners, Racked Up Violations

Aug 25, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

An insurance company attorney said that an illegally treaded tire responsible for a fatal Texas bus crash earlier this month was already installed on the vehicle when it was purchased.  But others who know Angel De la Torre, the owner of the bus, say he regularly cut corners in order to maximize profit at his company, Iguala Busmex.  A Houston newspaper is also reporting that, according to records in Texas, De la Torre's bus companies and drivers also amassed a large number of both safety and moving violations.

The August 8th Iguala Busmex  accident, which killed 17 people, was the nation’s deadliest  bus crash since 2005. The charter bus, taking a group of Vietnamese Catholics to a religious festival in Missouri, blew an illegally treaded tire, skidded off the highway and overturned. In addition to the deaths, 38 people were injured.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Keena Greyling, a lawyer who represents the insurance company that issued De la Torre's coverage, said the tire was on the bus in July when he bought the used 2002 model from Motor Coach Industries.  A spokesperson for Motor Coach Industries told the Houston Chronicle that Greyling's assertions are false.

Others familiar with De la Torre's operations told the Chronicle that he habitually cut corners.  Several people, including one drive who worked as a driver for De la Torre, said he failed to screen his drivers and allowed them to work longer than legally allowed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, an earlier bus company owned by De La Torre - Angel Tours - had amassed a number of driver, safety equipment and mechanical violations. Drivers have been ticketed 13 times for at least 65 violations - including faulty brakes, leaking fuel lines, chafed brake hoses, leaking or bald tires, cracked windshields and discharged fire extinguishers -  by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers since 2005.

Ten of De la Torres drivers amassed a total 23 tickets or moving violations, including six speeding tickets, eight citations for not carrying insurance on their personal vehicles, two DWI convictions, and a ticket for careless driving in Louisiana, the Chronicle reported.

The man at the helm of the bus that crashed on August 8, 52-year-old Barrett Wayne Broussard, had been cited by police three times since 2001 for motor vehicle violations — 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.

According to a Dallas Morning News report, De la Torre  opened Iguala Busmex three days after federal investigators banned Angel Tours, from interstate travel after finding safety violations. Despite those violations, Iguala Busmex was able to  receive a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number.  However, the company had not yet been approved for operation at the time of the accident.

Following the 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, 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.”


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