8 hurt in bus crash in Valley Center
Last Updated: 84 days ago
VALLEY CENTER - Eight people suffered minor to serious injuries Thursday when a tour bus crashed off a rural North County road while en route to Harrah's Rincon Casino.
The driver lost control of the coach in the 29500 block of Valley Center Road about 9:30 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.
The vehicle, occupied by 15 people, smashed through a fence, went down a slight embankment and rolled to a halt, upright, on a lawn in front of a farmhouse about five miles from the casino, CHP public-affairs Officer Jim Bettencourt said.
Antonio Garcia was working on the farm when he heard a crash.
"It was a horrible noise," Garcia told 10News in Spanish. "I thought it was thunder. It was so loud. I ran to the front yard and I saw people crying and screaming."
Medics took the injured, who had trauma ranging from a possible broken leg to bumps and bruises, to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido and Fallbrook Hospital.
The most fortunate man may have been Garcia.
"It's scary because 15 minutes before, I was in that exact spot working. I was lucky," he said.
The 63-year-old operator of the Silver State Coach bus told investigators he had lost control while driving about 35 mph on a curving stretch of road, Bettencourt said. The speed limit in the area is 55 mph, the officer said.
"The driver said he was doing about 30 miles per hour into the turn. We're obviously going to look into the evidence to see if that supports his statements," said Bettencourt.
He said several passengers believe the bus was going faster than 30 miles per hour. There were no initial indications that alcohol or drugs were a factor, according to Bettencourt.
The driver, a Hawaiian Gardens resident, was among those transported for medical care.
The bus trip had originated in Seal Beach, according to the CHP. All those aboard were adults.
The Placentia-based tour company that charters the vehicle makes several trips to the Valley Center-area casino daily, according to Bettencourt.
According to a spokesperson for Silver State, the bus company went through a federal inspection this June and received a satisfactory grade, the highest of the three designations. The review included bus inspections, but it is unknown if the bus involved in Thursday's crash was looked at.
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