At least seven people were killed Sunday when a tour bus collided with multiple vehicles and overturned near Mentone, California — approximately 70 miles east of Los Angeles on Highway 38. Though some sources originally reported that as many as nine people died in the accident, representatives from the California Highway Patrol later revised the fatality total to seven. At least 38 other people were injured in the collision that occurred when the Scapadas Magicas tour bus, returning to Tijuana, Mexico, from Big Bear Lake, California, rear-ended a sedan, collided with a pickup truck and flipped over around 6:30pm Sunday evening.
Investigators are still currently attempting to determine the cause of the accident, but CHP officers on the scene report that high speed is likely a contributing factor. Mechanical failure and driver error were also given as possible causes for the collision. Following the accident, the bus driver reported having difficulties braking when the bus was negotiating a sharp downhill slope, and witnesses reported seeing smoke coming from the back of the bus, which some say was swerving before it collided with a Saturn Sedan and a Ford pickup truck hauling a trailer. The sedan’s passengers reported minor injuries, but the truck’s driver sustained major injuries in the collision.
Witnesses on the scene reported that the bus, transporting among others several Tijuana medical students coming home following a ski vacation in Big Bear, swerved for several minutes before flipping over. San Bernardino County Fire Department rescue workers arrived on the scene shortly after they received an emergency call reporting the accident at about 6:30pm, and at least 15 people remained hospitalized for the treatment of injuries sustained during the accident the following day. Investigators on the scene have so far not been able to retrieve the passenger list from the bus, which came to rest unstably on an embankment. For this reason, the number of passengers killed in the accident remains uncertain. At least two of the deceased passengers remained onboard as of Monday afternoon.
Though Scapadas Magicas buses have not been involved in another accident in the previous two years, the company was placed on a U.S. Department of Transportation watch list due to several safety problems, including issues related to vehicles’ brakes and tires. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were inspecting the scene of the accident in hopes of determining its cause, requiring officials to keep a section of Highway 38 closed to traffic throughout the following day.