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Report: Driver likely to blame for tour bus crash

A preliminary report by the California Highway Patrol says driver error likely is to blame for a tour bus crash in central California that killed five people.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Driver error likely is to blame for a tour bus crash in central California that killed five people last month, according to a preliminary report by the California Highway Patrol.

The report released Monday said John Egnew, 69, of Corona, failed to negotiate a curve on a U.S. 101 overpass in Soledad, causing the bus to hit a guard rail and overturn on April 28. The bus, which was carrying 34 French tourists and a Canadian tour guide, was en route to Southern California after visiting the Monterey and Carmel area when the crash occurred.

Egnew, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown through the windshield and died, according to the report. The crash left four tourists dead and dozens injured.

Toxicology tests on Egnew came back negative, according to the CHP report. Investigators also found that the Orion Pacific bus, which was about 1 year old, had no mechanical problems, and that neither weather nor road conditions played a role in the crash.

A person who answered the phone Tuesday at Orange-based Orion Pacific, owned by Weeks Enterprises, declined to comment on the CHP report.

Egnew was the driver of another Weeks Enterprises-owned bus when he struck 71-year-old Joan Smith of Delton, Mich., in a Las Vegas crosswalk in December 2005. Egnew later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of starting improperly from a stopped position.

Most of the injured passengers in the Soledad crash have been released from hospitals and returned to France, said Jacques de Noray, a spokesman for the French consulate in San Francisco.

Eight people remain hospitalized in the San Francisco Bay area, he said.

De Noray, whose office helped arrange flights home for the survivors, said many are still in shock. Most have refused to speak to reporters about their experience.

"Some of them don't fully realize what happened," he said Tuesday. "It will take time to fully recover."