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Feds order bus companies to cease operations

David Rayburn
National Transportation Safety Board investigator David Rayburn looks out Sunday from the cab of a charter bus involved in a deadly accident early Friday that killed 17 people and left at least eight others in critical condition in Sherman, Texas. Matt Slocum / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Companies linked to a bus that crashed in Texas and killed 17 people, most of them from Vietnamese Catholic congregations on their way to a religious festival, pose an "imminent hazard" and must cease commercial operations, federal officials said Sunday.

Inspectors also took another bus out of service in Carthage, Mo., because it was unauthorized to operate, said National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Debbie Hersman.

It was registered to Iguala BusMex Inc.of Houston, the unlicensed company that also owned the bus in the Texas crash, Hersman said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued its cease-operations order to Iguala BusMex and Angel Tours Inc., of which Angel De La Torre is owner and president. A second order issued to him finds that his "activities in connection with motor carrier operations pose an 'imminent hazard' to the public."

The voice-mail system for Angel Tours was full Sunday and not accepting new messages.

Pilgrims returning from the Missouri festival stopped at the accident site Sunday, erecting a memorial and saying prayers.

"I think that God used this tragedy to strengthen our faith. I truly believe that," said Hoang Vu. He stopped at the site with his wife and son to offer prayers with other mourners.

The bus in the Texas crash blew a tire and smashed into a guardrail early Friday at Sherman near the Oklahoma border, killing 12 people at the scene and five others who died at hospitals.

Authorities have also released the driving record of the bus driver, 52-year-old Barrett Wayne Broussard, who remained in critical condition Sunday. 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.

Robert Accetta, the NTSB member leading the investigation, said officials were still fact-finding. An investigator will travel to Houston with the Motor Carrier Safety Administration to find information about Iguala BusMex and Angel Tours.

Authorities said the right front tire, which blew out, had been retreaded in violation of safety standards.

The bus sat in the city impound lot Sunday. The right-side emergency windows were broken. Overhead bins appeared to be collapsed. The front right corner of the bus was smashed — and all the wheels had been removed.

At the accident site Sunday, where investigators were still working, a woman's dress shoe and a white tennis shoe lay in the grass beside the railing. Damaged pieces of guardrail were scattered about in a creek, and broken glass sparkled amid charred grass.

Peter Tran, a close friend of Thuong Tath, who suffered a cracked neck bone and lost his wife in the accident, said he was saddened to find remnants of the group's crash — among them packets of longan, a traditional Vietnamese fruit, and yellow sweet rice.

"It's been really, really sad," Tran said. "It's a terrible time. I cried, but everyone cries."