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California Tour Ends in Tragedy When Bus Overturns Near Soledad

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Orion Pacific is the newest tour bus company facing hard questions being asked by angry people. This is the third major bus crash to happen in California since the devastating Cache Creek crash in October and people want to know “Why?”. This collision occurred on Tuesday, April 27, 2009, and today, questions still abound. Investigation is slow and steady when it comes to large accidents like this so that nothing is missed.

The media is covering this incident nationwide, with articles from the New York Times and the Associated Press. The pages that allow comments are full of thoughts for the families and friends of those who have been hurt, but there are a always a few comments of outrage and pessimistic condemnation. Some blame the drivers, some blame the owners, some blame manufacturers.

Truth be told, anybody can make up any reason they want to blame anyone they want, at least until we get some answers. Speculation is running rampant with everyone putting in there own two cents. It has been conjectured that the driver could have been on drugs, hung over, or maybe even just sleepy. People look to the past for explanations, but truthfully, there can be no good reason for this horror.

Why do people react so strongly to accidents involving buses? Is it because of the inherently high number of casualties and fatalities? Is it because almost everybody has ridden a bus at some point in their lives? Is it because it is a major transporter of our children to and from school?

When crashes are reported you read words like “ejected” and “overturned”. The imagery is powerful and the words themselves terrify. With bus crashes death tolls are more likely to be higher and more people are hurt. More ambulances come to the scene and more hospitals take in patients. On Tuesday, fifteen ambulances, a few helicopters and nine hospitals treated injured riders.

This incident, in addition to other recent bus accidents, has put a spotlight on bus regulation and safety. There is already a bill in the assembly that will strengthen the current rules in California. It is illegal to hire a driver who is not properly licensed, but this bill introduced by Assemblyman Dave Jones will put some teeth behind the regulations.

One chance, just one, to get it right, if a bus company is been found to knowingly hire a driver who is not properly licensed, they will not be allowed to do business in California. Strict enforcement should motivate companies to check the records of their drivers and to ensure that they are educated and licensed according to the requirements of state law. By this time, I am sure we are all aware of the dangers of negligent hiring.

It is not known if any precautions could have prevented this crash, mainly because we do not know what caused the crash yet. Investigators would have had an easier time of it if the driver had survived, but it has been revealed that the driver, John Egnew, was one of three people who died at the scene. Two more people were pronounced dead at hospitals.

The tourists came from different cities in France to explore California and they were due to fly back from Los Angeles that night. The local Red Cross has set the survivors up in a motel and provided counseling through this ordeal, but volunteers say they just want to go home.

Passengers recall thinking there was something wrong with the bus and one person reported that it felt like they were going too fast. The nation awaits with bated breathe to discover what went wrong. Once we know the cause we can work toward finding the solution. And a solution must be found. There are too many potential deaths if these buses are not being properly maintained and properly driven.

The bus in question is actually owned by Weeks Enterprises which owns Orion Pacific. Their safety records is solid for the last two years and they passed random inspections fourteen times. A citizen’s comment on one news site demanded log books and scale stops, like what big rigs are required to do. Would that solve the problem? I don’t think overworked drivers and weight distribution are the issue with these recent crashes, but I appreciate that people are looking for solutions in different places.

Buses are a unique form of transportation and it is the prevalent form of public transportation, school transportation, and tourist transportation. If this wave of large accidents continues, perhaps the people need to take another look at the bus and try to find a safer alternative to avoid further tragedies.