'Chaotic scene': 1 dead, 21 injured in California tour bus crash

Firefighters and paramedics tend to a victim after a tour bus overturned on rain-slick Interstate 15 near Fallbrook, Calif., in San Diego County Thursday afternoon, Dec. 19, 2013. Anthony Carrasco / AP

One woman is dead and 21 other people were hospitalized after a tour bus heading to Valley View Casino overturned on the southbound I-15 at State Route 76 near Fallbrook Thursday afternoon.

"When officers arrived, they found quite a chaotic scene, as you can imagine, with so many patients that were in the area," said officer Jim Bettencourt, who was on the scene.

The bus is from Five Star Bus Charter out of Bell, Calif. According to federal safety records, Five Star Bus Charter operates just two buses and employs two drivers. Those buses were involved in two other accidents in the past two years. Federal records reveal one of those crashes resulted in an injury. 

But as of Sept. 8, Five Star has a "satisfactory" safety rating from the federal Department of Transportation.

The company's corporate registration was suspended two weeks ago because it failed to pay taxes or penalties owed to the Franchise Tax board.

A representative of the company said she’s trying to get more information about today’s fatal crash and declined to comment further.

A SigAlert was issued for the crash, which blocked the right two lanes and backed up traffic at least two hours earlier in theafternoon. There was rain in that area, but no word if that had a role in the crash.

"We don’t know whether or not that caused the bus to slide," Bettencourt said.


Firefighters tend to a victim, right, after a tour bus heading to a casino overturned on Interstate 15 near Fallbrook, Calif., in San Diego County Thursday afternoon, Dec. 19, 2013. Anthony Carrasco / AP

The crash occurred around 2:30 p.m. and involved several other vehicles, according to the California Highway Patrol. Many of the injured passengers were being transported to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido while others were headed to Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside.

“We received two immediate, three delayed and seven minor (patients),” said Cathy Prante, director of emergency services at Palomar Medical Center. “They’re all in good shape, all still in the emergency department.”

According to police, the driver said he was going approximately 55 mph when the bus began swerving. The driver lost control, and the bus flipped on its side.

Also on Thursday, a tour bus crash in Corona shut down two lanes of freeway. According to CHP, nobody was killed, but most of the 30 passengers suffered minor injuries.