Greyhound and driver sued in bus tragedy


 The family of a seven-months-pregnant woman who was killed in a Greyhound bus accident in Santa Maria November 27 is suing the nationwide public transport company for damages, and saying the driver was at fault.

 The bus, traveling from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo, crashed just after 7 Sunday morning on northbound Highway 101 south of Betteravia Avenue in Santa Maria. According to witnesses, it was weaving at 65 mph when it veered off the right shoulder, tipped on its side, and skidded into a eucalyptus tree.

 Martha Contreras, 23, from Santa Maria, and Faro Jahani, 50, a San Francisco businessman, were both killed. Several of the other 41 passengers on board were injured. Contreras’ husband Agustin Contreras, along with her mother and stepfather, filed the complaint last Thursday.

 The suit alleges that the driver, 63-year-old Samuel Bishop, fell asleep at the wheel. It also charges that Bishop was driving under an alias, Sam Amasalian, had a history of drug problems, and had several prior convictions for assault.

 Esteban Valenzuela, one of the attorneys for the Contreras family, says Bishop’s employer is also responsible. “We want to see some changes in the way Greyhound runs its business. We think the accident would have been preventable had Greyhound had conducted its affairs and duty to the public as a carrier to run these buses in a way to protect the public.� 

 While the investigation into the accident is still ongoing, preliminary reports indicate that Bishop, who had driven the bus from Fresno to Los Angeles Saturday night and was scheduled to drive a route to San Luis Obispo, took a break between trips and did not violate the federal limit of driving more than 10 consecutive hours.

 But Valenzuela is claiming that Greyhound offers financial incentives to drivers who lack the required rest to take on additional routes or hours, and penalizes them for not doing so. Greyhound officials, who aren’t commenting on the lawsuit, say they are extremely strict about overworked or tired drivers, who are ordered to immediately pull off the road at the first sign of fatigue.

 The personal injury and wrongful death suit also seeks rewards for Contreras’ husband, who was on the bus with his wife when it crashed. “Agustin’s emotional damages are even more severe and need to be addressed by the people responsible,� Valenzuela says. “Aside from that, we believe Greyhound’s practices are exposing the public to risk and we’ve made allegations for damages to get their attention so hopefully this wouldn’t happen again.�

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