Bus in Fatal California Crash Was Not Inspected

Posted on October 22, 2008 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Highway Patrol records show a charter bus that crashed and killed nine people earlier this month was not inspected for safety because the owner failed to report it as the law required.

Records released Monday reveal that bus company owner Daniel Cobb, who died in the crash Oct. 5, had not reported that bus to highway patrol inspectors even though other buses he owned had been reported and inspected.

The records were released after The Associated Press and other news organizations filed requests under the California Public Records Act.

Investigators are looking into the history of that bus, which also had not been issued a permit by the California Public Utilities Commission and was not authorized to be on the road.

"It will be months before we have all those answers," CHP spokeswoman Fran Clader said.

Two other tour buses operated by his business, Cobbs Coaches, passed safety inspections as recently as March.

The bus overturned on a two-lane road about 60 miles north of Sacramento. Many of the 42 passengers heading to the Colusa Casino Resort were senior citizens and Laotian immigrants.

Records released earlier by the Public Utilities Commission, which issues permits for tour buses, showed that Cobb was authorized to operate one bus. When Cobb reported his second bus, he did not upgrade his permit for more buses.

The discrepancy between the number of buses inspected by the highway patrol and the number permitted by the utilities commission highlights a gap in how California regulates tour bus companies.

Clader said inspection records are not forwarded to the commission if the bus passes inspection or if the company's owner remedies any problems.

Cullen Sisskind, a highway patrol motor carrier specialist, said inspectors rely on the bus companies to accurately report their fleet. "Absent evidence to the contrary, we take that information at face value," Sisskind said.

The driver in the fatal crash, Quintin Watts, was arrested for violating his parole by driving without a proper license allowing him to carry more than 10 passengers, said Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Terry Thornton.

Watts, 52, who was injured in the crash, is being held at Deuel Vocational Institution in Stockton. He is scheduled for an Oct. 31 hearing to consider revoking his parole, Thornton said. Watts was released from prison last December after serving nearly six months for possession of a firearm by an ex-felon.

Source: Associated Press

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