Trucker accused in deadly 2016 bus crash ordered to trial

Trucker held on $500k bail after 2-day hearing

Trucker accused in deadly 2016 bus crash to stand trial for vehicular manslaughter

INDIO, Calif. - - The truck driver charged in the deadly October 2016 Palm Springs area bus crash remains behind bars on a half-million dollars bail and will be headed to trial in the case. 

Bruce Guilford, 51, of Covington, Georgia, is accused of falling asleep at the wheel on Oct. 23, 2016, minutes before a tour bus slammed into the rear of his rig.

Guilford is now set to stand trial on more than 40 felony and misdemeanor counts, including vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving.

The defense and prosecution continued to trade blows in the second day of Bruce Guilford's preliminary hearing.



Through the two-day hearing, prosecutors continued to emphasize Guilford's history of excessive hour violations and unhealthy resting habits; an investigator pointed to an early October 2016 instance when Guilford went into a Beaumont, Texas rest stop to watch a football game instead of resting.

On Wednesday, defense attorneys argued that Guilford had never been in trouble with the law. His attorney said he served in the National Guard and US Army Reserves for 20 years, learning to drive a truck while on deployment in Iraq. 

"There is no intentional act. This is an unfortunate mistake," Guilford's attorney argued Wednesday. "The (tour) bus driver was not paying attention." 



The 2016 crash killed 13 people including the tour bus driver. 31 others were hurt. 

It was noted during the hearing Tuesday that there were no skid marks from the tour bus prior to the crash. An investigator estimates that the tour bus was traveling between 74 and 79 miles per hour at the time of the crash. 

Guilford is accused of falling asleep at the wheel in the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 2016, minutes before a tour bus slammed into the rear of his rig on westbound Interstate 10.

Bus driver Teodulo Elias Vides was killed along with a dozen of his passengers riding near the front of the bus.

Guilford was arrested in Georgia late last year.

CHP Officer Scott Parent testified Tuesday that after comparing Guilford's driver logs and the GPS device on his truck, he found that Guilford drove in excess of maximum driving time limits, which include mandates that drivers spend no longer than 11 hours per day on the road, not work longer than 14 hours after one's shift begins and take a required 30-minute break per every eight hours of driving.

Parent testified that Guilford drove in violation of those regulations nearly every day of his round trip from Eufaula, Alabama, to Salinas.

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office filed the charges against Guilford about two weeks before the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that both Guilford and Vides were sleep-deprived.

The NTSB explained the findings of their investigation into the crash in October, saying Vides should have seen the stopped truck.

Parent alleged that Guilford violated maximum driving time regulations and tried to hide the violations by falsifying his driver's daily log, with the nearly nonstop driving he allegedly undertook resulting ``in acute sleep deprivation,'' he wrote in an arrest warrant declaration.

Following a traffic break conducted by CHP to facilitate utility work on the freeway, Guilford and other motorists came to a standstill on the freeway for five to 10 minutes while work got underway.
Parent alleged that Guilford set his parking brake, then fell asleep as the traffic break was lifted and remained stopped for about a minute, until he was struck by the bus.

The officer said video footage captured from CHP officers conducting the traffic break and surveillance from a nearby FedEx building captured the truck stationary on Interstate 10 as cars slowed, then drove around it.

Parent testified that in an interview with Guilford, the trucker said that before the crash, he'd been stopped for 25 to 30 minutes during the traffic break. Parent, who alleged that the truck was stopped for at most two minutes, said Guilford denied falling asleep.

Guilford was "not the party determined to be most at fault for this collision,'' but his falling asleep behind the wheel "was a substantial factor in the deaths of 13 individuals,'' Parent alleged in his declaration.

I-Team investigator Zak Dahlheimer spoke with Vides' daughter in October. She says her family has been the target of several lawsuits since the crash. 

NTSB investigators said Vides had also barely slept leading up to the wreck and crashed his bus into the truck at 76 mph despite having about 20 seconds to see the rig and take evasive action. An NTSB report released last fall said Vides had slept about four hours in the 35 hours preceding the crash.

NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said, "In this crash, not one but two commercial vehicle drivers -- people who drive for a living -- were unable to respond appropriately to cues that other motorists did act on.''

More: Today’s Top Stories

First Alert Forecast

More: I-Team and Stands for You investigations

Find us on Facebook: KESQ News Channel 3 & CBS Local 2

Follow us on Twitter for breaking news updates: @KESQ  & @Local2

We’re on Instagram! @KESQ_News_Channel_3  & @CBSLocal2

Watch live newscasts

Noticias en español: Telemundo 15

Download the KESQ / CBS Local 2 app on iTunes or Google Play for up-to-the-minute breaking news alerts & more

comments powered by Disqus

Most Popular Stories

Photo Galleries