13 people died over the weekend in what has been the deadliest car crash in California in several decades. A USA Holiday tour bus crashed into the back of a truck trailer early Sunday morning in Desert Hot Springs, crumpling the front third of the bus. The bus was headed back to Los Angeles after taking the passengers to a casino in Thermal.
CHP officials stated it was too early to determine whether the bus driver was speeding at the time of the collision, but the damage to the front of the bus suggests the bus was traveling much faster than the truck it collided with. Investigators will look into whether the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or whether he fell asleep or had a heart attack. Additionally, they will investigate all possibility of any mechanical failure.
31 of the passengers were injured and transported to hospitals throughout the desert. 14 patients, five of whom were in critical condition, went to the Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, which houses the only trauma center in Coachella Valley. Eisenhower The bus was not equipped with seatbelts, causing some facial injuries to those injured. The other victims were transported to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage and John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio.
The majority of the victims were Latino, and assumed to be from Los Angeles, where the bus trip began. USA Holiday owns one bus and has one driver, according to federal records. The bus driver, who died in the collision, drove buses to various California casinos for years. The bus left from Koreatown in Los Angeles and headed to the Red Earth Casino in Thermal, offering round-trip travel and 4 hours of gambling for the price of a $20 ticket.
CHP cleared the remains of the bus as well as passengers' belongings from the road by noon on Monday. Bodies of the victims were removed by coroner's vans two at a time. CHP is currently working on identifying all victims and survivors, made difficult by the fact that some passengers had no ID or were separated from their belongings when transported.