Tire Failure Probed In Vegas Casino Bus Crash


LAS VEGAS (AP) - Tire failure may have caused a casino worker
shuttle bus crash that injured 29 people, including three who remained hospitalized, authorities said Monday.

"There's evidence that the bus may have suffered tire tread separation," Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Honea told The
Associated Press. He said the findings were preliminary, pending
the results of an investigation.

Three people remained hospitalized at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, including a 72-year-old woman, a 51-year-old woman and a 61-year-old man, said Tammy McMahan, a hospital spokeswoman. McMahan said patient privacy laws prevented her from disclosing
medical conditions.

Honea said the bus driver was one of those still hospitalized after the crash that occurred about 7 p.m. Sunday on Interstate 15 some eight miles south of the Las Vegas Strip. The driver's name was not immediately made public.

Clark County fire spokesman Scott Allison said that of 33 people on the bus, 29 were taken to area hospitals for treatment of injuries ranging from cuts to broken bones. The most seriously hurt were taken to UMC.

The injured were casino and mall employees returning to Las Vegas from Herbst Gaming Inc. properties in nearby Primm, said Ferenc Szony, company president. He called the crash "a very difficult and tragic situation," and said company officials were helping the injured and their families.

The daughter of the hospitalized 72-year-old woman said her mother was being treated for a broken neck and fractured ribs.

"She's a firecracker, so I know she'll make it," Debra Meier told KLAS-TV. She gave her mother's age as 70, and did not identify her by name. Attempts by the AP to contact Meier were not immediately unsuccessful.

Honea said it appeared Meier's mother was the most seriously hurt in the wreck.

"We had numerous walking wounded," Allison said of a crash scene that he said stunned him.

"The driver's side front tire looked like it went through a meat grinder," the fire spokesman said. "It was just shredded completely."

Bus parts including axles were strewn about the freeway and median, he said.

Honea said witnesses in other vehicles saw the white full-sized bus veer suddenly to the left, where a metal guardrail sheared the wheels and undercarriage from the bus. The coach section crashed into the center median and remained upright.

"This could have been catastrophic if it went into the other lanes or turned over," Honea said. "There's a lot of worse scenarios."

It did not appear that the bus was speeding, Honea said, adding that investigators recovered a bus data recorder that is expected to show speed and mechanical measurements.

An employee at bus owner AWG Charter Services of Las Vegas
referred calls to an insurance adjuster who did not immediately
respond to a message.

The crash was the second this year involving Herbst casino workers being shuttled 40 miles between Las Vegas and Primm, a freeway casino town on the Nevada-California state line.

A Jan. 17 wreck injured at least 25 of 30 people on a bus heading from Las Vegas to Primm after the bus scraped against a guardrail, toppled on its side and caught fire.

Everyone got out before fuel ignited and the bus burned to a charred metal skeleton. That bus was owned by Herbst Gaming, not AWG.

Herbst Gaming owns 16 casinos in Nevada, including the three Primm properties it bought in April 2007 from MGM Mirage Inc., and properties in northern Nevada that it acquired in January 2007 from Sands Regent Casinos.

The company operates more than 7,000 slot machines in Nevada bars and restaurants, and owns casinos in LaGrange, Mo., St. Joseph, Mo., and Osceola, Iowa.
On the Net:
Herbst Gaming Inc.: http://www.herbstgaming.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-08-11-08 1338EDT

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