The owner and operator of the tour bus involved in the Desert Hot Springs crash that left 13 people dead had been previously sued at least twice for negligence after collisions with vehicles, one of which ended in three deaths.
Teodulo Elias Vides was named in a civil suit after a USA Holiday bus crashed into a Honda Civic on the northbound 215 Freeway in Riverside on May 6, 2007. The driver of the sedan, Sylvia Saucedo, and two of her passengers, Maria Llamas and Julio Morales, were killed. Llamas’ relatives sued Vides and the bus driver, Paulino Camacho Ceballos, the following year alleging personal injury and negligence.
Lawyers forVides, however, rebutted the lawsuit, arguing that the Honda was driving at an “unreasonable rate of speed” and that Saucedo lost control of the vehicle and ricocheted off the center divider wall. The case appears to have been dismissed after the plaintiffs failed to respond to discovery requests.
Vides, 59, was identified by neighbors as the driver of the USA Holiday bus that was headed west on the 10 Freeway early Sunday when it crashed into a big-rig truck. He was identified among the 13 deceased. An additional 31 people were injured.
"The speed of the bus was so significant that when it hit the back of the big rig, the trailer itself entered about 15 feet into the bus,” California Highway Patrol chief Jim Abele said Sunday.
Vides had faced an earlier lawsuit when a USA Holiday bus collided with a car on the westbound 60 Freeway in Riverside in June 2003. Two of the car’s passengers sued USA Holiday as well as its driver, Paulino Ceballos, alleging the bus was negligently operated and responsible for the crash. The case was settled in 2006. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed in court documents.
USA Holiday is an Alhambra-based company that owns one bus and employs one driver, according to federal records.
For years, Vides drove buses filled with older passengers to casinos across the Southland, said Sonia Anderson, Vides’ next-door neighbor. Some nights, he parked the tour bus on the street near his apartment.
In September 2005, Vides was cited in Riverside County for speeding on the highway in excess of 70 mph, according to court records. He had been pulled over in a 1996 white bus on the 10 Freeway eastbound just west of Main Street near Cabazon. He was ordered to attend traffic school but according to the records, traffic school was "not completed as ordered" and his bail of $151.80 was forfeited.
Records show that Vides was pulled over again in a white bus in May 2011 on the eastbound 10 Freeway, not far from where the recent crash occurred. At that time he was cited for speeding and driving with a suspended license. He initially failed to appear in court and a bench warrant was issued for him, with bail set at $2,500. A month later, the case was dismissed after Vides showed proof of a valid driver’s license.
Federal and local investigators are probing the cause of the crash, the deadliest in California in several decades. The bus slammed into the back of the truck’s trailer, crushing the front third of the cabin. Most of those who died appeared to have been sitting toward the front of the bus. CHP officials said the bus appeared to have made no attempt to brake as it careened into the tractor trailer shortly after 5:15 a.m.
It had been on its way to Los Angeles from a casino in Thermal, near the Salton Sea.
The company was last inspected by federal transportation officials in April of last year and received a satisfactory rating, according to FreightConnect, a private data provider. No issues with the coach or driver were reported.
The company drove 68,780 miles in 2015, the most recent data available, federal records indicate.
Knoll and Sahagun reported from Palm Springs; Winton and Knoll from Los Angeles.