- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The families of two men among 13 people killed when the bus they were riding from a desert casino to Los Angeles slammed into a slow-moving truck have sued the bus company and the estate of its driver, who died in the crash.

The families of Gustavo Garcia and Tony Mai sued USA Holiday and the estate of owner and driver Teodulo Elias Vides for negligence and wrongful death Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The lawsuit is the first in the crash that occurred before dawn last Sunday on Interstate 10 near Palm Springs as the bus returned to Los Angeles from the Red Earth Casino.

Vides was traveling at “freeway speeds” when he plowed into a tractor-trailer truck that was moving at 5 mph because of utility work, the California Highway Patrol said.

He did not appear to brake before the crash and the trailer became embedded in the front of the bus, where most of the dead were found.

Passengers were dozing when the collision occurred just after 5:15 a.m. Thirty passengers and the truck driver were injured.

Attorney David Harris, who filed the suit, said lawyers are looking into an account from a man who said the truck was stopped and its driver appeared to be asleep without his hazard lights on.

The witness said both directions of freeway had been shut down for 15 to 20 minutes before the crash. The witness, who Harris would not name, said another car had swerved to avoid the truck just before the bus collision.

The truck driver, Bruce Guilford, is not named in the lawsuit. He did not return a telephone message left seeking comment at his Georgia home. His wife, Sharon, said she had not heard such an account from him.

Harris said the witness spoke with the California Highway Patrol. A spokesman for the highway patrol, Officer Mike Radford, said he could not “confirm or deny the truth of the alleged witness’ statement.

Attorneys are also looking into any connection the bus driver had with the casino.

“It appears they knew of this tour operation,” Harris said. “We’re not sure if there was any profit sharing, but we’re going to look into that.”

Efforts to reach the bus company or Vides’ family for comment were unsuccessful. The casino’s general manager did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is looking into possible mechanical issues on the bus and what Vides did in the hours leading up to the crash to see whether alcohol or fatigue or some other factor might have contributed.

They are also looking into the actions of the truck driver and other factors, such as warnings drivers would have had about utility work being conducted during the night.

Southern California Edison Co. said in a statement that it “was involved in a facilities upgrade project off the I-10 when the incident occurred.” It said the CHP and California Department of Transportation were responsible for traffic control to ensure safety.

Southern California Edison referred additional questions to the highway patrol and the NTSB. Neither had any information that was immediately available.

Garcia, 62, who was also known as Gustavo Green, and Mai, 50, were both from Los Angeles.

The bus was one of many that shuttle gamblers from the Los Angeles area for short trips to casinos a few hours away.

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Associated Press Writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

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