Tragically, one of the deadliest auto accidents in recent California history occurred this past Sunday. A tour bus was transporting passengers from Red Earth Casino near Salton Sea back home to Los Angeles when it struck the back of a tractor trailer near Palm Springs. Thirteen people, including the bus driver, died in the accident and 31 were injured. The 1996 MCI bus was operated by USA Holiday.
According to CNN, the early morning accident occurred at around 5:17 a.m. PDT. Evidence suggests that the bus was moving much faster than the big rig, but it is too early to say whether the bus was speeding. Officials say that the severity of damage to the front of the bus, which was crumpled and mostly destroyed, indicates it was moving faster than the vehicle in front of it.
It seems that the tour bus had “no appearance of braking” when it struck the rear of the tractor trailer, CNN reports. “There were no skid marks from the bus at the time of the collision,” said California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Jim Abele to CNN reporters. “The only skid marks were directly related to the big rig as it got pushed forward.”
“In almost 35 years I’ve never been to a crash where there’s been 13 confirmed fatalities,” said Abele. “So, it’s tough, it’s tough for all of us.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident. Investigators are reviewing whether a medical emergency, drugs or alcohol, or mechanical failure played a role in the deadly crash.
According to the Riverside County Coroner’s Bureau, 10 of the victims who died were women and three were men.
Officials say there no seat belts on the bus. Upon impact, some of the passengers sustained facial injuries that may require plastic surgery, said Dr. Ricard Townsend at Desert Regional Medical Center.
Officials are searching for a data recorder, which would show the speed of the bus when it crashed. Since the vehicle was manufactured in 1996, however, it may not have one. “Essentially, we just don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle,” said Abele, according to LA Times. “We may not be able to determine exactly why the accident occurred because the driver has been killed.”