Third Texas Bus Accident This MonthAug 22, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that Transportes Los Norteños remains in compliance with national transportation statutes, federal regulators are reviewing the carrier after a harrowing accident in Dallas late Wednesday, the second involving the company in two days. The company has had faulty buses placed out of service 41 times since 2006.
Reports indicate that the driver of the Transportes bus raced for the nearest interstate exit after his brakes appeared to fail, said Kimberlee Leach, spokeswoman for the Dallas County Sheriff's Office. "Hold on!" driver Bernardo Lopez Laurel reportedly warned the 37 passengers aboard the bus, according to Leach, just before it raced along a frontage road and through an intersection before crashing into a vacant gas station. Seconds before, one male passenger jumped out a window, breaking his leg. Another half-dozen passengers were treated at the scene. The day before, another Transportes bus caught fire. In the 41 times that federal or state inspectors stopped or examined Transportes buses since 2006, they were found to be so deficient that they were placed "out of service."
A Transportes bus with the same vehicle identification number as the one in Wednesday’s crash appears to have been inspected at least 15 times in the last two years or more, according to the FMCSA. Also, a bus with the same license plate as that crash was inspected last year and was found to have inadequate brakes and was put out of service. "We're doing a compliance review on them," FMCSA spokeswoman Kristin Schrader said.
According to federal records, Transportes is owned by Hugo Campa and is located at 5621 Harrisburg Blvd. Another bus company at that location, Autobuses Regiomontanos, is owned by Campa's brother, Jose Campa. "He (Hugo Campa) just gets his mail here. I keep his records because I know him," said Nadia Luevano, an Autobuses Regiomontanos employee who added that Transportes does not keep its buses in Houston; they are kept in Monterrey, Mexico. A year ago, a compliance review was conducted on Transportes Los Norteños after the company received several insurance cancellations in a row.
This is the third major incident in nearly three weeks involving Houston-based bus operators. On August 8, a bus carrying 55 Vietnamese-American churchgoers from Houston to Missouri for a religious celebration crashed through a guardrail after a tire blew, killing 17 people. That accident is considered the nation’s deadliest since 2005. Initial reports said the bus blew an illegally treaded tire, skidded off the highway, and overturned. That bus was registered to Iguala Busmex; Angel De La Torre owns the Houston-based company. According to the Dallas Morning News, 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 received a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number but was not approved for operation at the time of the accident.