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Criminal Charges Possible in Texas Bus Crash

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The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the Harris County District Attorney is considering filing criminal charges against Angel De La Torre, the owner of a bus and tour company involved in a deadly bus accident in Texas last Friday. If a criminal prosecution does occur, it would likely focus on whether he or his companies intentionally provided false or fraudulent records or statements to the Federal Motor Carrier Administration.

The last time a Texas bus operator was subject to prosecution followed the 2005 Hurricane Rita bus crash near Dallas that killed 23 nursing home patients. Owner Jim Maples was convicted of failure to maintain his buses and sentenced to six months of home incarceration and six months in a halfway house.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has already said that “grossly deficient vehicle maintenance” contributed to Friday’s tragedy. The agency ordered Iguala BusMex and Angel Tours Inc. to cease commercial operations Sunday, finding that the companies posed an “imminent hazard.” A second order issued to De La Torre, owner of both Houston-based companies, said that his “activities in connection with motor carrier operations pose an ‘imminent hazard’ to the public.”

The agency also ordered another Iguala BusMex bus out of service because it was not authorized to operate. The bus was in Carthage, Missouri when the order came down, at the same religious festival victims of Friday’s tragedy were supposed to attend.

Authorities have also released the driving record of the bus driver, 52-year-old Barrett Wayne Broussard. Since 2001, he has been cited by police three times — once for driving while intoxicated and twice for speeding. Broussard has also failed roadside inspections twice in the last year, both times resulting in his vehicle being taken out of service for driver logbook violations. When the second violation occurred, Broussard was driving for Angel Tours.

Friday’s crash claimed the lives of 17 Vietnamese Catholics on their way to a religious festival. Dozens of others were injured. Six of the survivors, including the bus driver, remained in critical condition on Monday. Initial reports say that the charter bus blew an illegally treaded tire, skidded off the highway and overturned. The bus accident was the nation’s deadliest since 2005.

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