- Associated Press - Thursday, May 22, 2014

BLYTHE, Calif. (AP) - The four passengers killed in a tour bus crash near the California and Arizona border were two men and two women from Southern California, authorities said Thursday.

Riverside County coroner’s officials identified the men as Pablo Ramirez, 67, of Pico Rivera and Angel Hernandez, 49, of Hacienda Heights, both from Los Angeles County. The women were Luz Rivera, 44, of Compton in Los Angeles County and Jessica Garcia, 30, of Chula Vista in San Diego County.

They died at the scene at around 2:15 a.m. Wednesday when their bus struck metal pipes that had dropped from a jackknifed truck and scattered across Interstate 10 near the desert town of Blythe.

The bus slid down an embankment and overturned. Seven people were seriously injured but both drivers escaped injury.

The bus was making an 800-mile trip from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles.

The California Highway Patrol said the driver of the pipe-hauling truck was trying to pass slower vehicles in a 70-mph zone when he drifted onto the dirt shoulder and lost control.

The remote highway has no lights and the pipes might have been difficult to see. Two cars also struck the pipes before the bus hit them but nobody was hurt in those crashes, California Highway Patrol Lt. Cmdr. Gustavo Guzman said.

It was the worst bus crash since a big-rig truck hit a charter bus carrying high school students last month in northern California. Ten people died in that crash.

The truck was operated by VG Transport and based in Rialto, east of Los Angeles. According to federal safety records, VG Transport has not been involved in any crashes reported to state officials over the past two years.

The man listed as the contact for VG Transport, Victor Esteban Galvan, could not be reached for comment. No one picked up at the listed phone number, and the voice mail box was full.

The bus was operated by El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express Inc.

“No one has made any allegations about the bus’s maintenance or the bus driver’s actions being contributing factors of this accident,” company President Jerry Rosenbaum said in a statement.


Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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