Passengers recall deadly Big Bear trip

Tijuana residents live through moments of anguish

What started as a trip to Big Bear, CA, for a few tourists from Tijuana, ended up in tragedy when the vehicle lost its brakes on the way back home.

Survivors say that the driver shouted for someone to call emergency services because the brakes were not responding, and while some passengers tried to do this and get signal for their phones, a group of teenagers began to pray aloud while the others shouted and covered their heads waiting for the impact.

The bus first rear ended a small car, spun, flipped and skidded on its side. Then, a truck that was traveling in the opposite lane rammed the bus, and several passengers were ejected through some windows that had been completely broken.

Gerardo Barrientos, who one minute was next to his girlfriend and in the next, saw her being ejected through the twisted metal and found her next to his friend laying on the road, who was wounded but alive among other bodies that were scattered around, said "It all happened very fast. When the bus turned, everything flew including the people."

The bus traveled for at least a mile until the impact that made it stop, and left debris on the road, bodies lying around and winter clothing. Part of the roof of the bus was also and pulled back, according to Officer Leon Lopez of the California Highway Patrol.

On Monday, several family members of the victims from Tijuana looked for them at the hospitals, while police searched for evidence at the site of the incident and reviewed the history of the bus.

Authorities will soon determine if the cause of the accident was a mechanical failure or driver error.

Federal transportation records show that the bus is operated by a company called "Scapadas Magicas" that is based National City, California.

This company in one year had 22 vehicle safety code violations that include brake problems, windshields and tires. Phone lines of this company are currently operating, but according to reports, no one is answering them.

From the crash, 17 people are still hospitalized including the driver, and five people are in serious health condition which among them is a young girl whose uncle is by her side while the search for her dad is still ongoing, he has not been found at any hospital or at the scene of the accident.

Authorities yesterday confirmed the death of seven people and revealed the names of the victims.

There were 38 people aboard the bus including the driver and a guide, said Jordi Garcia, marketing director for Interbus, who rented the vehicle from Scapadas Magicas.

"Everything points to a brake failure," Garcia said, who also mentioned that he spoke briefly with his tour guide, who suffered minor injuries, and told him that there was a loud sound before the crash.

For information regarding the victims of the Big Bear bus accident, you can communicate with the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino at 909-384-8114 and 909-633-1982.


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