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NTSB: Tour bus driver should have seen stopped truck

NTSB convenes on deadly Palm Springs bus crash

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The National Transportation Safety Board convened to announce the probable cause of last year's deadly Palm Springs freeway crash that killed 13 people aboard a tour bus on Interstate 10.

We have learned the NTSB is unhappy at how often commercial drivers get tired on the road and  they do believe traffic breaks played a key role in this crash. They also said the truck driver likely fell asleep and could not remember how much sleep he got the night before the crash.

It was also revealed that the truck was indeed visible for 20 seconds before the tour bus hit it.

"There were other drivers traveling ahead of the bus driver who were able to see the truck, determine it was stopped, and take corrective action to avoid striking it," Kenny Bragg, the NTSB Accident Investigator said. 

The staff proposes the following probable cause:

  • One, the California Department of Transportation inadequate management for the traffic break which resulted in a hazardous traffic situation which law enforcement did not detect the lack of movement after the traffic break ended and the bus driver did not receive advanced warning of potential traffic ahead. 
  • The truck driver not moving likely due to his falling asleep because of his undiagnosed severe -- sleep apnea.
  • And the bus driver's failure to avoid the crash as a result of fatigue and the fact he did not expect to encounter stopped traffic. 

The early morning crash killed the bus driver, along with 12 passengers. They were riding near the front of the bus that slammed into the rear of a big rig on westbound Interstate 10, west of North Indian Canyon Drive at 76 mph, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Read: 13 people dead, 31 injured in tragic tour bus crash on I-10

Since its investigation into the Oct. 23, 2016, crash began last fall, NTSB investigators have not made any public statements regarding what they believe caused the wreck.

The NTSB board is meeting in Washington, D.C.. It started Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. PDT. The meeting is being live streamed and is available here.

The Riverside County District Attorney's Office has charged the big rig's driver, Bruce Guilford, 51, of Covington, Georgia, with vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving.

Read: Truck driver arrested & charged in connection with deadly Palm Springs tour bus crash

Police arrested Guilford in his home state two weeks ago and is awaiting extradition to California to face more than 40 felony and misdemeanor counts. No arraignment date has been set for Guilford, but his attorney was set to argue Wednesday for a reduction of his $500,000 bail and a recall of the arrest warrant.

Read: I-Team investigates 2016 deadly tour bus crash

California Highway Patrol investigators allege that Guilford logged too many driving hours, in violation of federal regulations, causing him to be sleep-deprived on the morning of the crash.

In an arrest warrant declaration, CHP Officer Scott Parent alleges Guilford fell asleep behind the wheel, leaving his truck stopped on the freeway for over a minute just prior to the crash. Guilford was on the second of two consecutive round trips from Alabama to California when the crash occurred and falsified his driver logs to hide the number of hours he'd spent on the road, the document alleges.

Read: KESQ investigates tour bus safety following deadly crash

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

The bus had taken gamblers on a junket to the Red Earth Casino in Thermal and was en route back to the Los Angeles area when it slammed into the rear of Guilford's truck.


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