A Texas motorcoach operator forced out of service by federal authorities last week was involved in at least two deadly accidents in Mexico before being shut down, court records show.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Friday ordered Autobuses Rio Verde of Irving to cease interstate operations because of its links to Green River Buses LLC of Dallas, which had received a similar order in April.
Court records examined by The Associated Press show a bus operated by Autobuses Rio Verde was involved in a fatal crash in Mexico on July 3, less than two years after a bus operated by Green River Buses was involved in a similar one.
The July 3 accident killed a 19-year-old woman and her unborn child, according to the court records. The earlier accident occurred Oct. 9, 2006, and resulted in at least three deaths, including the driver and a passenger, the records show.
The order against Autobuses Rio Verde stated that the motorcoach operator and Green River Buses had vehicles, drivers and management in common. Autobuses Rio Verde owner Marco Vasquez previously was the terminal manager for Green River Buses, while Green River Buses owner Luis Patino was manager and safety director for Autobuses Rio Verde.
Patino did not respond to a phone message from the AP. A call to Vasquez seeking comment went unanswered.
The FMCSA had given Autobuses Rio Verde the green light to begin transporting passengers on June 5, six weeks after Green River Buses was ordered to stop doing business because of an unsatisfactory safety rating, according to the agency.
Its order Friday followed inquiries by the AP into the two companies.
The agency has been cracking down on so-called "rogue" motorcoach operators in the wake of an Aug. 8 bus crash near Sherman that left 17 passengers dead. The operator in that accident, Iguala BusMex Inc., was an offshoot of another company, Angel Tours Inc., that had been shut down earlier.
The FMCSA's investigation of Autobuses Rio Verde stemmed from a random roadside bus inspection, which revealed the company's ties to Green River Buses, agency spokeswoman Kristin Schrader said.
Benny Agosto Jr., an attorney representing the family of the Houston woman killed in the July crash, said he knew a day after getting the case that Autobuses Rio Verde was connected to Green River Buses.
"These companies have gotten used to making money by cutting corners," he said. "Unfortunately, what's at stake is the lives of their passengers."
Lawsuits stemming from the crash have been filed in Houston and Dallas.
The driver left the scene of the accident, which occurred 35 miles south of Nuevo Laredo, according to one of the lawsuits.
The October 2006 crash occurred in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. It resulted from the bus colliding with a tractor-trailer after the driver fell asleep at the wheel, according to a lawsuit filed in Dallas County.Danny Robbins, AP Writer © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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