Two victims in San Bernardino County crash file suit against National City bus company

8 people killed in Feb. 3 crash

SAN DIEGO - What is believed to be the first lawsuit to arise from a horrific crash of a bus operated by a National City firm was filed Friday in San Bernardino Superior Court.

Guillermina Morales and Pamela Morales, both residents of Mexico, are asking for unspecified damages in their court action against Scapadas Magicas LLC, Interbus Tours and Charters, and Norberto B. Perez.

Eight people were killed and dozens hurt Feb. 3 when a passenger coach operated by Scapadas Magicas and driven by Perez crashed into two other vehicles and overturned on Highway 38 in Mentone, following a trip to Big Bear, according to the California Highway Patrol and San Bernardino County coroner's officials.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration subsequently ordered the company to cease operations.

The complaint filed on behalf of the plaintiffs alleged that their injuries were the result of the defendant's negligence.

The document said Guillermina Morales suffered fractures to both of her legs, a broken pelvis, lost strength in one arm, and pain and suffering. Pamela Morales had a broken arm, and pain and suffering.

It said both women incurred medical expenses.

The defendants owed the women "a duty of care to act as a responsible tour operator by providing safe vacation getaways," plaintiff's attorney Federico Castelan Sayre wrote in the complaint.

Interbus, which sold the vacation getaway to the women, should have "refrained from contracting with companies that had a poor safety or accident record, an unreasonable amount of moving motor vehicle violations, poor compliance with laws and regulations regarding vehicle maintenance and safety, or excessive citations and fines by government agencies," the lawyer said.

A post-crash investigation by federal inspectors of Scapadas Magicas' two other motor coaches found serious mechanical safety violations, and those buses were immediately taken out of service, according to federal officials.

Investigators also found that the carrier had failed to ensure that its vehicles were systematically inspected, repaired and maintained, and that its drivers were properly qualified and licensed, contrary to information provided by the company as recently as last month, according to the FMCSA officials.

Among those killed in the crash were San Diego residents Victor Cabrera Garcia, 13, Elvira Garcia Jimenez, 40, and Guadalupe Olivas, 61. The driver of one of the vehicles struck by the out-of-control bus succumbed to his injuries in a hospital three days later.

In all, 43 people were involved in the crash -- 38 passengers and the driver on the bus, and two each in the other vehicles. A triage area was set up to treat the patients at the scene before they were taken to hospitals, some with life-threatening injuries.

Initial evidence suggested that the brakes on the tour coach gave out, according to an official with InterBus. Officials with the Baja California-based tour company stated on their Facebook page, in English and Spanish, that they "deeply regret" the accident.

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