Oct. 20--A Palm Springs-area bus crash that killed 13 people last October on the 10 Freeway appears to be the fault of both drivers, said an independent traffic accident reconstructionist on Friday.
"Neither party was squeaky clean," said William "Bill" Dawson, with California Traffic Specialists based in Temecula.
On Thursday, big-rig driver Bruce Guilford, 51, of Georgia, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving in the Oct. 23, 2016, crash between Guilford's truck and an Alhambra-based USA Holiday charter bus.
An investigation, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office said, found Guilford had fallen asleep with the truck's parking brakes set while traffic was stopped to allow Southern California Edison workers to pull wires across the highway.
The truck remained stopped in the No. 3 lane when California Highway Patrol officers reopened the 10 Freeway's westbound lanes.
The DA's investigation also found that Guilford violated various federal regulations related to drive-time limits and sleep breaks before the crash, and that he falsified log records, according to a District Attorney's Office news release.
In last year's crash, a motor coach returning to the Los Angeles area after a visit to the Red Earth Casino in Thermal was traveling at 76 mph, the CHP said, before it crashed into the rear of the big rig.
The bus, driven by Teodulo Elias Vides, hit the big-rig with such force that the motor coach plowed 15 feet into the truck's trailer; the vehicles had to be pulled apart by crane.
Thirteen people were killed -- including Vides -- and at least 29 others were injured.
Though Guilford was arrested in the crash, an arrest warrant declaration from CHP Officer Scott Parent said that he was "not the party determined to be most at fault." The declaration did not elaborate.
A request for comment from the CHP on Friday afternoon was not returned, nor was an email to the District Attorney's Office.
* Related: 3 who were hurt in Palm Springs tour bus crash that left 13 dead file lawsuit (July 27, 2017)
Based on the limited information he had, Dawson said both Vides and Guilford appeared to be at fault for breaking various violations of the vehicle code.
The bus was traveling at 76 mph "faster than what was safe for the conditions," said Dawson, adding that speeds is a standard vehicle code violation that is examined in rear-end collisions.
Guilford's big-rig, on the other hand, was stopped on the freeway "when there's no appropriate reason for it being stopped," Dawson explained. "He's also in violation for not having the proper amount of rest prior to this collision. That could be a tremendous contributing factor."
Parent wrote that "falling asleep and blocking the No. 3 traffic lane for 1 minute and 18 seconds (would have been longer had the collision not occurred) of a four-lane interstate was a substantial factor in the death of 13 individuals."
But Dawson said it was not clear how long the traffic was stopped for the Southern California Edison workers to pull the wires.
The CHP could also be found at fault, Dawson explained, if they didn't make sure that all drivers were properly seated in their vehicles and all traffic was ready to move after the wire work was completed.
Additionally, a photo Dawson saw with a skid mark on the left of the bus makes it appear as if the bus were in the No. 2 lane; by California law, he said, buses must be in the No. 3 or No. 4 lanes.
"That's a big if," he cautions. "I would need more evidence to hang my hat."
Dawson concluded that it's a "very muddy case to try."
Staff writers Gail Wesson and Brian Rokos contributed to this report
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