Monday, February 4 2013 7:22 PM EST2013-02-05 00:22:58 GMT
The bus full of tired tourists from Mexico was slowly winding its way down the mountain from the ski resort town of Big Bear when it suddenly picked up speed.
The bus full of tired tourists from Mexico was slowly winding its way down the mountain from the ski resort town of Big Bear when it suddenly picked up speed. The driver shouted to call 911 — the brakes had failed.
LOMA LINDA, Calif. (AP) — The driver of a pickup truck struck by a careening tour bus died Wednesday at a California hospital, bringing the death toll from the mountain road crash to eight.
Fred Bailey Richardson, 72, died at Loma Linda University Medical Center, authorities said.
Richardson, who ran a landscaping business, was towing a trailer full of equipment when his truck was struck head-on Sunday evening on Highway 38 near Yucaipa by the bus, which was returning a group to Tijuana, Mexico.
Richardson was returning to his century-old stone house in unincorporated Mentone, the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/YDClDv) reported.
Richardson worked on many of his neighbors' yards in the tiny mountain community and was well-liked, Carly Schmitt said. She told the Times that Richardson, who had two grown children, was an avid trout angler and his wife grows African violets.
"The night it happened, I was just watching TV, just bawling my eyes out," Schmitt said of the crash.
Seven other people on the bus died after it struck a sedan, flipped, slammed into the pickup and crashed while heading down the road in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles. The crash littered the area with wreckage and body parts.
Dozens were injured and several remained in critical condition.
The roadworthiness of the 1996 bus loomed as a key issue after the driver told investigators the brakes failed as he descended the two-lane highway. Federal records pointed to a history of brake-maintenance problems with the European-made bus.
Road conditions and possible driver error or fatigue also were being considered.
The bus, operated by National City, Calif.-based Scapadas Magicas LLC, was carrying 38 people, including the driver and a tour guide, when it left Tijuana at 5 a.m. Sunday for the daylong trip. The accident occurred around 6:30 p.m.
No one answered the phone Wednesday at Scapadas Magicas' Tijuana office or at a listing for its National City address.
The accident killed San Diego residents Guadalupe Olivas, 61; her daughter, Elvira Garcia Jimenez, 40, and her grandson, Victor Cabrera Garcia, 13.
The trio was part of a group of five employees of a Tijuana health clinic and four of their family members, said Dr. Carlos Sanchez, director of the clinic, which is known by its Spanish acronym Issstecali. The tight-knit group went to see snow.
Garcia Jimenez was a part-time doctor at the Tijuana clinic since October 2011, Sanchez said. Two others in the group — another part-time doctor and a receptionist — remained hospitalized Wednesday with serious injuries.
Also killed were Tijuana residents Aleida Adriana Arce Hernandez, 38; Rubicelia Escobedo Flores, 34; Mario Garcia Santoyo, 32, and Liliana Camerina Sanchez Sauceda, 24.
THIS IS A STORY UPDATE. For an earlier version, read below.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Elvira Garcia Jimenez, a 40-year-old doctor at a Tijuana, Mexico, hospital, brought along her mother and her teenage son on a day trip to a Southern California ski resort with a tight knit group of her co-workers.
None of the three family members would return.
They were among eight people who died after a tour bus violently collided with other vehicles on a two-lane highway on a return trip from the mountain resort of Big Bear over the weekend.
The eighth fatality occurred early Wednesday when the driver of a pickup truck struck by the bus, Fred Bailey Richardson, 72, of San Bernardino, died at Loma Linda University Medical Center, said coroner's supervisor Tony Campisi.
Jimenez's son, 13-year-old Victor Cabrera-Garcia, had wanted to see snow as a way to celebrate his birthday on Jan. 13, Luz Garcia told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
She said Cabrera-Garcia, Jimenez, and the boy's grandmother, 61-year-old Guadalupe Olivas, were all members of her ex-husband's family. All three lived together in a modest San Diego home.
"We are so sad. We hurt very much," Luz Garcia said in Spanish in a phone interview. "It's hard because we are suffering the pain from losing members from three generations. Each one hurts equally. It's horrible. It has been a nightmare."
The trio was part of a party of 10 people who were employees of the Tijuana hospital and their family members, said Samuel Gasca de los Reyes, spokesman for Mexican Institute of Health and Social Services for Baja California state workers.
"They were a very tight group," Gasca de los Reyes said. "They were very close outside of work."
Two people from the group remained hospitalized, he said.
As loved ones grieved, federal and state investigators combed the mangled wreckage for clues as to what caused the accident that also left dozens injured.
Authorities targeted the brakes and other equipment in their effort to explain why the driver lost control in the San Bernardino Mountains on the way back to Tijuana.
The roadworthiness of the 1996 bus loomed as a key issue after the driver told investigators the brakes failed as he descended from the popular ski area. Federal records pointed to a history of brake-maintenance problems with the European-made bus.
"We are going to look very closely at the brakes as we will every other mechanical system on the bus," National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Eric Weiss said.
The California Highway Patrol and NTSB were collecting evidence on the bus, road conditions and possible driver error or fatigue.
NTSB officials also went to the offices of bus operator Scapadas Magicas LLC, in National City, Calif., where they interviewed owners and employees, and gathered documents on the maintenance history of the bus, Weiss said.
The bus, its front roof collapsed and windows shattered, was towed to an auto yard in Ontario that the CHP uses to store evidence, Officer Mario Lopez said.
The bus was carrying 38 people, including the driver and a tour guide, when it left Tijuana at 5 a.m. Sunday for the daylong trip. It was returning on State Route 38, which meanders through San Bernardino National Forest, when the accident occurred around 6:30 p.m.
The four others killed were Tijuana residents Liliana Camerina Sanchez Sauceda, 24, Aleida Adriana Arce Hernandez, 38, Rubicelia Escobedo Flores, 34, and Mario Garcia Santoyo 32, authorities said.
Just before the crash, the driver had shouted to the passengers that the brakes had failed and urged them to call emergency services.
"We never expected this could happen — never," Luz Garcia said. "It's so hard."
Olivas was Luz Garcia's mother-in-law before she divorced her husband, and the grandmother of their children.
Luz Garcia said her children have not left their home since hearing the news about the deaths of their grandmother, aunt and a cousin who loved soccer and played on a local team as a goalie. He was Elvira Garcia's only son.
One of his happiest moments, she said, was getting an autographed photograph of Tijuana's soccer team, which in December won the border city's first Mexican Apertura division football title.
"This is very painful for me," she said. "I'm sorry I can't talk more."
Blood reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer Tami Abdollah contributed from Los Angeles and Elliot Spagat contributed from San Diego.