Tour bus crash victims demand congressional probe

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. - Local victims of a horrific tour bus crash near Big Bear Lake are demanding a congressional investigation after a stunning revelation: all six brakes on the bus were defective.

Federal inspectors had given the National City bus company clearance a month prior, but never inspected the buses.

Intending to speak, Veronica Corvera instead broke down in tears in front of 10News cameras. The bus crash that killed her best friend also left Corvera with a host of injuries, including a leg amputated below the knee and a fractured back and eye.

A physician in Tijuana, she can no longer work. Her husband and young daughter also suffered fractured backs in the crash.

"We're shocked to hear this," said Rafael Becerra, Corvera's husband.

That was his reaction after major revelations from the National Transportation Safety Board that all six brakes on that ill-fated tour bus were deemed defective.

The NTSB slammed the oversight from federal regulators at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

A month prior to the crash, investigators had given the National City bus company, Scapidas Magicas -- or "Magical Escapes" -- a satisfactory grade, though none of the buses were inspected.

The grade was issued despite a string of safety violations that had landed the company in the bottom 26 percent of all U.S. motor carriers for maintenance.

"That gets me very angry … Our accident could have been prevented," said Becerra.

Attorney James Frantz is representing the couple and nine others in a lawsuit. He said too often, regulators are relying on the word of bus companies instead of completing inspections.

"I didn't see this honor system written into regulations. Meanwhile, people are dying," said Frantz.

Federal regulators said they've asked for funding for more inspections but haven't received it.

Frantz calls that a "cop-out," saying the regulators could have required the Tijuana-based buses to be moved to the U.S. to reduce inspection costs.

An hour into the interview, Corvera was finally able to offer this opinion, through a translator: "I find it hard to think about. They've ruined my life and ended other lives."

In a statement, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration pointed out:

"In the past three years, we have more than tripled the number of unsafe companies and drivers we have taken off the road through more comprehensive investigations."

The National City based company has been shut down.

On Friday, Frantz contacted the oversight committee for the House Transportation Committee and requested an investigation.

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