Driver in fatal Northern California bus crash had earlier accident

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 24, 2014 5:17 PM

By Shelby Sebens

(Reuters) - The driver of a tour bus that drifted off a California freeway near the Oregon border and slid down an embankment, killing one person and injuring about 30 others on Sunday, was involved in another crash hours before the fatal accident, police said on Monday.

The crash that occurred off Interstate 5, about 100 miles south of Oregon, killed 33-year-old Octaviano Garcia of Parlier, California, officials with the Shasta County Coroner's Office said. 

The California Highway Patrol was investigating the cause of the crash, and said that the driver, 67-year-old Jose Victor Garcilazo Palencia of Los Angeles, had been in another accident earlier that morning. 

The report stopped short of making any conclusion about the cause of the crash of the Yellow Arrow Lines bus, which had been headed from Los Angeles to Pasco, Washington. But it did mention the dangers of fatigued driving.

“Most people are aware of the dangers of drinking and driving but don't realize that driving while fatigued can be just as fatal as driving under the influence,” the report said. Police declined to comment beyond what was said in the report.

Palencia had also been driving the same tour bus when it hit the roof of a Denny's Restaurant around 5:30 a.m. local time in Red Bluff, about 50 miles south of the fatal accident location, Corporal Josiah Ferrin of the Red Bluff Police Department said. 

There were no injuries and only minor damage reported in that accident, according to the police report. Palencia had been parking the bus when its side hit the roof of the restaurant, causing minor damage, Ferrin said. No charges were filed. 

“The officer noted in his report that the driver didn't appeared fatigued and didn't appear to be under the influence of alcohol,” Ferrin said. 

An official with Yellow Arrow Lines, based in Othello, Washington, could not be reached for comment. 

Most of the injured passengers were treated and released from three area hospitals. Six patients remain at Mercy Medical Center's locations in Redding and Mt. Shasta. Two were in serious condition, one was critical but stable, two were fair and one was stable, said Heather Nichols, a spokeswoman for Mercy.

Nichols said the hospital initially received 28 passengers and that others were sent to Shasta Regional Medical Center.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)