Deadly bus crash blamed on speeding and other safety violations

by Eric Pearson

On Dec. 30, nine passengers died and almost 40 were injured when a bus operated by a Vancouver-based tour company plunged through a guardrail and 200 feet down an embankment in Oregon.

At least one lawsuit has been filed in the U.S., in Tacoma, Wash., on behalf of two foreign exchange students who survived the crash. In addition, a Canadian husband and wife have sued the tour company in their home country. The lawsuit accuses the driver of speeding, failing to stop, ignoring traffic rules and knowingly driving a defective vehicle.

Although investigations of the crash are still underway, the Canadian driver of the bus has recently been banned from operating a commercial vehicle in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the driver was driving too fast for the conditions and ignored federal limits on the amount of time he could spend behind the wheel. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said the driver violated the U.S. limit of working a maximum of 70 hours in eight days. Public records show the company had a history of safety violations.

According to the lawsuits, the bus had inadequate or defective brakes and tires, was not properly serviced and had inadequate lights, windshield wipers and warning devices. The suits also accuse the driver of speeding, failing to stop, ignoring traffic rules and knowingly driving a defective vehicle.

Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates inter-state buses, enforcement is often lax and numerous bus companies flagrantly violate established safety rules. A bus coming into the U.S. from Canada or Mexico only adds to the difficulties of enforcement.

Problems include poor maintenance, lack of inspections and untrained drivers. Driver fatigue and driver drug use are also major concerns. As a result of these abuses, there at least 11,000 bus crashes each year in the United States that injure more than 24,000 people each year.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson partner Eric D. Pearson represented the family of Nick Stout, a teenage boy who suffered a traumatic brain injury when the bus he was taking to church camp slammed into a concrete bridge abutment in East Texas, killing four and injuring dozens. Evidence showed that the driver of the bus, Ernest Carter, was under the influence of cocaine and valium at the time of the crash. He was also suffering from fatigue due to his failure to adhere to government regulations relating to maximum hours and minimum rest periods.

The evidence also showed that Defendant Eric Rockmore, owner of Discovery Tours, falsified documents to cover up Carter’s rules violations. Following a three week trial, the jury in the 14th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded the Stout family more than $36 million.

If you have been seriously injured, or someone you know has been hurt or killed, in a bus crash, you may be entitled to compensation. To find out if you may have a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our free online case evaluation form.