Tour Bus Driver May Have Been Distracted

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Investigators are looking into whether the
driver of a tour bus might have become distracted before a crash
that killed seven people, a state official said Monday.
Three survivors of Friday's crash near Hoover Dam have been
interviewed, and investigators were checking on the 48-year-old
driver's driving history, medical records and certification to
operate the bus, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt.
James Warriner said.
"We are focusing on the driver possibly being distracted for
some unknown reason," he said.
Warriner said the survivors indicated the driver might have been
distracted, but he did not elaborate on what those distractions
might have been or whether they played a role in the crash.
Officials said they have not been able to interview the driver
because of his injuries.
The driver, 48-year-old Han Dong of Rosemead, Calif., remains in
fair condition at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
Investigators said they don't believe he was impaired at the time
of the crash.
The tour guide and six Chinese tourists were killed in Friday's
crash along U.S. 93 in Arizona, 26 miles south of the Nevada
border. Ten others were injured.
The charter bus company that owned the tour bus had its charter
certificate suspended on Monday by the California Public Utilities
Commission.
The commission's Web site listed the carrier status of D.W. Tour
& Charter of San Gabriel, Calif., as suspended, because the
company's liability insurance expired on Monday, commission
spokesman Christopher Chow said.
"Effectively, they cannot operate," Chow said.
Chow said the company had been fined $750 in October for hiring
an unlicensed bus outfit as a subcarrier.
Pete Kotowski, lead investigator for the National Transportation
Safety Board, said D.W. Tour & Charter, which owns two buses and
employs four drivers, passed its last federal review in August
2007. Six months prior, a review showed the company had
insufficient drug and alcohol testing and policies for vetting
drivers, he said.
The company is listed as "satisfactory" by the Federal Motor
Carrier Safety Administration. Spokesman Duane DeBruyne said the
agency will launch a compliance review of the company in light of
the crash.
Insurance is required for the carrier to maintain federal
certification, but DeBruyne said that "everything is in order on
the federal side."
Chow said the California commission's suspension only applied to
the company's California operations.
The tour bus company did not immediately return calls and an
e-mail seeking comment.
Kotowski said the 30-seat bus was smaller than a typical tour
bus - similar in size to airport car-rental shuttles - and did not
have seat belts. All the seats faced forward, he said.
Kotowski said it was not clear whether the driver worked
directly for D.W. Tour & Charter or was hired to drive the bus just
for the trip.
Authorities say the group was returning to Las Vegas from the
Grand Canyon when the bus crashed about 4 p.m. Friday near Dolan
Springs, Ariz. The tourists were Chinese nationals who had flown
from Shanghai to San Francisco and had most recently been in Las
Vegas, the Arizona Department of Public Safety has said.
The bus drifted into the right shoulder lane before the driver
overcorrected, sending the bus across two traffic lanes and into a
gravel median separating the northbound and southbound lanes,
Kotowski said. It rolled over at least once - ejecting most of its
passengers out of the windows - before coming to rest on its side.
Kotowski did not say how fast the bus was traveling. The speed
limit on the straight stretch of road is 65 mph.
Warriner said DPS is holding off on identifying those killed at
the request of the Chinese consulate. He said some family members
of victims still are en route to Las Vegas.
The Mohave County Medical Examiner's Office in Kingman said it
received six of the deceased victims - four women and two men. The
body of another man was sent to the Clark County coroner's office
in Las Vegas, Mohave County medical examiner Dr. Rexene Worrell
said.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety released the identities
and ages of the passengers late Monday and said they all were from
China.
In addition to the bus driver, three others remained
hospitalized at University Medical Center in Las Vegas, about 70
miles northwest of the crash site, hospital spokesman Rick Plummer
said Monday. Two females - Ying Lei Zhao, 35, and Ya Fen Cheng, 51
- were in critical condition. Shun Xing Zhao, a 61-year-old male,
was listed in fair condition.
An 8-year-old boy, Shuang Wu, and his parents - 47-year-old Shou
Gui Wu and 35-year-old Rui Hua Bao - were treated and released from
hospitals.
Tian Yi Xie, a 19-year-old female, and Bang Yao Hong, a
50-year-old man, remained hospitalized at Sunrise Hospital and
Medical Center in Las Vegas. Hospital spokeswoman Ashlee Seymour
wouldn't confirm the hospital had those patients, but she said two
tour bus crash victims close in age were listed in fair condition.
UMC announced late Monday night that Yee Kwan Lau, a 41-year-old
female, was transported to the Las Vegas hospital. She was listed
in good condition, Plummer said.


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