Tour Bus Had Poor Safety Record Before Fatal Crash

Julie Cart et al., Los Angeles Times, February 4, 2013

Federal inspectors over the last year found faulty axles and brakes and other safety violations on the tour bus that careened out of control on a winding mountain road near Yucaipa on Sunday evening, killing seven passengers, records show.

Maintenance citations of the tour buses owned by Scapadas Magicas of National City were numerous and serious enough that the company was placed on a federal watch list that flagged its buses for increased roadside inspections.

Bald tires, defective or missing axle parts, and insufficient brake linings were among 59 maintenance violations inspectors found on the firm’s buses in the last two years, U.S. Department of Transportation safety records show.

The tour bus was operating under a contract with InterBus Tours and Charters, based in Tijuana, which closed its office Monday, shortly after sending a busload of day tourists to Knott’s Berry Farm. The Scapadas Magicas office in National City, in San Diego County, was not open Monday.


Sales Manager Jordi Garcia said the agency’s insurance would be handling burial expenses for the deceased. He said the agency had been open for one year and offered daily trips to Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Universal Studios. The trips attracted people from all walks of life, including students, families and young professionals.


He said the business contracts with independently owned bus operators and that they are responsible for complying with all U.S. and Mexican regulations.


The Scapadas bus left Tijuana early Sunday with 38 passengers, including children, and was descending California 38 from the ski resort town of Big Bear Lake when the driver apparently lost control about four miles from Yucaipa.

The bus clipped a small Saturn sedan before it veered into oncoming traffic and began to roll, tossing out passengers who were not wearing seat belts. It crushed an oncoming Ford pickup before coming to rest upright atop a boulder and10-foot elderberry bush on a stretch of highway along Mill Creek. Backpacks, clothing and body parts were strewn across the crash site and, on Monday morning, a body remain draped out one of the bus windows.

“It is a gruesome and horrible scene. It’s one of the most horrific scenes I’ve ever seen in 10 years with the department,” said Officer Leon Lopez, spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.


The bus driver, as well as passengers, reported that the vehicle was experiencing mechanical problems before the accident occurred, authorities said. Investigators believe a problem with the brakes may have led the bus to speed out of control down the highway’s sweeping curves.

On Monday, those officials questioned the driver, identified as Norberto B. Perez, 52, of San Ysidro, but did not disclose his account of the crash.


Ramon Ramirez, who is listed in documents as the owner of Scapadas Magicas, lives in Tijuana and rents an apartment in Chula Vista. {snip}

Federal transportation records show that the bus involved in the crash has been cited as recently as October, when inspectors found a damaged windshield and noted that there was no properly installed fire extinguisher. In July, they found a faulty axle and brakes. An inspection in May revealed loose or missing wheel fasteners.

The violations helped place Scapadas Magicas below industry norms for safety. More than 75% of carriers in the same class have a better safety record, according to the Department of Transportation.



Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • The__Bobster

    That’s nothing. How would you like to be on Samuel Jackson’s bus?

    Damn da signs! There beez snakes on dis bus, mofo!

    66-year-old Samuel Jackson was the driver behind the wheel of the bus
    carrying dozens of Bucks County High School students and their chaperones on a
    college tour). The group was on its way home from a visit to Harvard University when the accident occurred.

    Police say Jackson ignored numerous warning signs marked CARS ONLY, NO

  • Bill

    Flash back now to McCain’s and Bush’s desire to open US roadways to Mexican based truckers. Feel comfortable and safe? How about all those new houses built by illegal Mexican labor in the US? Sleep well at night wondering how stable they are, what kinds of materials and chemicals might be in your walls?

    • Xanthippe2

      I suppose only Mexicans were killed in this crash? If it was Mexicans killing Whites, it wouldn’t make the news (as much).

  • Tim

    It was coming down a mountain side on British Tortola that cured me of travel third world style. The grade was so steep, the bus so overloaded that the rear end started throwing off sparks, groans and visible light rays… The man next to me looked over and I said, “When the differential can`t convert any more gravity into energy, it`ll break loose and we`ll be going over the side…” It didn`t but instead of relaxing on the beach we begged a passenger car to take us back to our hotel. He was happy and we were happy…

    • Quanita

      OK, why not just ban Mexican vehicles from the US entirely? Problem solved . . .

      • Luca

        You would think the Teamsters Union would be marching on Washington every week regarding all the Mexican truckers and bus drivers in the US. …Nothing but crickets… They are on board with the liberal agenda while collecting dues from all their obedient sheep whom they keep well fed.

  • bigone4u

    Living in south Texas i observe that hispanic owned businesses are often thinly capitalized and poorly managed. Que sera sera (What will be will be) is the mentality here. That’s why this place is a hellhole. No money to fix the brakes and nobody gives a damn.

  • purestocles

    A bus ride on the steep mountain road from Oaxaca to Puerto Angel cured me of ever wanting to travel by bus in Mexico again. We pulled in for a pit stop on a turnoff and the driver left the 15-passenger van without setting the parking brake. We began rolling backward towards a cliff. The other drivers (all standing around talking) began yelling and gesticulating at our driver as he walked towards them and luckily, he turned, ran back, jumped in and stopped us. I was in the back seat, and couldn’t get to the front of the van. The women sitting nearer to the front were stupefied with panic and worthless. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.

    I’m told by expats that the drivers pride themselves on descending so fast that riders are shaking with fear. Truly Macho Men those Mexicans.

    • Tim

      Reminds me of something else. The way the other drivers tried to get the errants attention instead of acting on their own to save the day. I went to eat at a Mexican restraunt. When my order came up my waitress was out back having a smoke, The other waitress screamed at the top of her lungs for six or seven minutes, instead of picking up the plate herself and walking it six feet to my table. That was the start of my walking up to the counter and getting my order myself when the service failure was glaring me in the face…

  • IstvanIN

    Wait until their 18 wheelers are on all our highways. At least the crap black and brown America is addicted to at Walmart will cost less.

  • dick

    brakes? we don need no stinking brakes!

    • Garrett Brown

      So funny

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    This calls for mandatory background checks for bus drivers. Bus size must be severely limited to seven passengers or fewer in New York and 10 elsewhere. Police will be required to stop buses randomly to check for compliance.

    Innocent children’s lives are a stake

    And, if it saves just one life, it will be worth it.


  • Only seven died this time? Their safety record is improving. It’s Mexican. What did you expect?