ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A Californian forwarding company and one of its drivers were charged with negligence on Friday in a series of lawsuits as investigators ransacked the wreckage of a deadly bus accident on a New Mexico highway. Eight people were killed and 25 injured, including three small children.
The Greyhound bus with nearly 50 people was heading west on Interstate 40 on Thursday as a semitrailer driving in the opposite direction lost the profile of its left front tire to a median strip and hit the bus, the police said.
The front of the bus was mangled, the Semi's cab was turned over and the trailer was on its side as debris was strewn across the highway. Passing car drivers stopped to help the passengers climb out of the rubble before the authorities arrived.
The head of New Mexico State, Pete Kassetas, called them heroes and said some drew ladders from trucks to the bus windows.
"For them to stop and get involved is amazing, I recommend them," said the boss. "To get ladders, to get on the bus to get people, can you imagine that?"
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have secured the vehicles for inspection and investigated the scene of the accident on Friday. You will also investigate factors such as driver fatigue, workouts, safety records and road conditions.
"Unfortunately, things of this nature happen and our job is to try to do what we can to prevent them from happening again in the future," said lead investigator Pete Kotowski.
The lawsuits filed on Friday are on behalf of the unnamed truck driver and JAG Transportation Inc. They cite data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which reports the company reported three crashes in the last 24 months.
Lawyer Bryan Williams said that there are concerns about the proper maintenance and inspection of the truck tires.
A woman who phoned the office phone said there was no one available to comment. [19659003TheloftsarenotcomingfromArizonaandtheothercomesfromOhio
The driver of the Semi, a 35-year-old man licensed from California, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The authorities did not call him and said he was not charged at the moment.
Officials at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque said nine patients remain in hospital, including three ICU adults, one of whom is in critical condition. Two children are also in intensive care.
Some patients were expected to have surgery on Friday and Saturday. While doctors refused to provide details, they said that patients had injuries ranging from head injuries to spinal fractures and fractures.
"Some of them will have a long recovery journey," said Sonlee West, director of the Hospital's Trauma Unit. "We were in contact with family members of several of the patients, and some of them could talk to their families."
Other passengers were treated in hospitals in the Gallup area, about 30 miles (48 kilometers)
Authorities said Friday that they were working to identify those who were killed by fingerprints and other means.
Greyhound spokeswoman Crystal Booker said in a statement Friday that the company is cooperating with authorities and will also conduct its own investigation.
"Tragically, a number of people lost their lives, including our driver, who had 27 years of Greyhound experience, and our hearts are with everyone affected by the event," she said. 19659003] Authorities identified the bus driver as Luis Alvarez, 49, of Santa Teresa, New Mexico.
A heap of debris remained on the shoulder of the freeway Friday, but the transport crews had to extinguish it because it was there evidence and possessions of bus passengers.
Associated Press author Mary Hudetz in Albuquerque has contributed to this report.