Deadly Tour Bus Collision Wasn’t the Vehicle’s First

desert hot springs tour bus (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. — In the early morning hours of October 24, a Los Angles-based tour bus slammed into the back of tractor-trailer. That trailer pierced through the front third of the tour bus, killing 13 of its occupants and injuring 31 more. Investigations into the accident’s cause are still ongoing. But preliminary reports seem to show that the bus was under high rates of speed with no evidence of braking before impact.

According to federal records, the late Teodulo Elias Vides, 59, owned and operated the tour bus, registered as USA Holiday. He had been driving passengers home from Red Earth Casino in Salton Sea Beach that morning. This route was similar to hundreds he had done before, shuffling Los Angeles residents to the many casinos scattered throughout Southern California.

Many of his previous passengers were quick to praise the late driver. They told reporters he’d often offer friendly advice and tell passengers who couldn’t afford the trip to pay him after they won at the casinos. However, his legal history as a driver and tour bus operator leaves much in question about his fitness to own and operate such a vehicle.

Two Lawsuits, Six “Unsatisfactory Ratings”, & Heaps of Violations

According to court documents, Vides had been previously subject to two civil lawsuits. Both alleged operational negligence in other collisions involving the same USA Holiday bus. In one of these collisions, three people died. Albeit, in both instances, another driver, Paulino Camacho Ceballos, was behind the bus’s wheel.

The California Highway Patrol has given his company at least six reported “unsatisfactory” ratings. Additionally, traffic-cam records cite a series of traffic violations by Vides across several counties.

While Vides might not have behind the wheel in the aforementioned accidents, the bus itself was a factor of those previous collisions. Yet, it was never taken out of service nor was it kept up to date equipment-wise.

Officials announced Tuesday that two of the bus’s eight tires were out of compliance with safety standards as they did not have enough tread. USA Holiday also lacked seat belts, which officials state caused many of victims to hurl into the air when the bus smashed through the trailer. It was here that many were stricken with blunt and jagged objects that caused their fatal or near-fatal injuries.