The driver of a truck that was rear-ended by a tour bus in a Palm Springs freeway crash that killed 13 people and injured 31 others was arrested Thursday on vehicular manslaughter charges for allegedly logging too many driving hours and falling asleep at the wheel.
Bruce Guilford, 51, of Covington, Georgia, was charged Wednesday with 13 counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence along with felony and misdemeanor counts of reckless driving. Each count corresponds to an occupant of the USA Holiday bus that plowed into the back of Guilford’s truck in the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 2016.
The bus took gamblers on a junket to the Red Earth Casino in Thermal, and was en route back to the Los Angeles area when it slammed into the rear of the truck.
Teodulo Elias Vides, the bus driver and owner of the bus company, was killed, along with 12 passengers riding near the front of the bus.
The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet announced a cause of the crash, but California Highway Patrol investigators allege that Guilford was asleep and was logging far more hours than permitted around the time of the crash.
On Oct. 23, Guilford was allegedly on a second roundtrip from Eufaula, Alabama, to Salinas in the last two weeks, according to an arrest warrant declaration. He’d previously driven that route from Oct. 8 to Oct. 18, then departed again on a second trip starting Oct. 19.
The declaration, written by CHP Officer Scott Parent, alleges that Guilford violated maximum driving time regulations and tried to hide the violations by falsifying his driver’s daily log.
The nearly nonstop driving Guilford allegedly undertook between Oct. 8 and the Oct. 23 crash “resulted in acute sleep deprivation,” Parent wrote.
The declaration alleges that after falling asleep, Guilford’s truck remained stopped on westbound Interstate 10, west of North Indian Canyon Drive. At 5:16 a.m., the bus crashed into the truck at 76 mph, Parent wrote.
The officer said Guilford was “not the party determined to be most at fault for this collision,” but said his falling asleep behind the wheel “was a substantial factor in the deaths of 13 individuals.”
The NTSB is slated to hold a meeting Oct. 31 at NTSB headquarters in Washington D.C. to determine the probable cause of the crash.
–City News Service