LOS ANGELES (AP) — The 17-year-old bus that went out of control and crashed on a Southern California mountain highway, leaving seven dead and dozens injured, had a history of brake and other maintenance problems that attracted increased scrutiny from federal safety officials.
The bus that was carrying 38 people from the popular Big Bear Lake resort area in the San Bernardino National Forest was slapped with eight violations by safety inspectors in October, for problems ranging from fluid leaks to an improperly installed battery, according Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration data reviewed Monday. According to the records, the bus was flagged for brake issues in at least three inspections since October 2011.
The cause of Sunday's crash is unclear, but early information pointed to a brake problem. Driver Norberto B. Perez told investigators the vehicle lost its brakes while traveling down the winding, two-lane road. Passengers reported Perez saying the brakes weren't working as he tried to maintain control before the bus hit a sedan, flipped and plowed into a pickup truck hauling a trailer.
Lettering on the bus showed it was operated by Scapadas Magicas LLC, based in National City, near San Diego. The Associated Press tracked the bus's maintenance records using its license plate and vehicle identification number.
The small company based about 12 miles from the Mexican border is licensed to carry passengers for interstate travel and had no crashes in the past two years. It retained an overall "satisfactory" rating from the motor carrier administration but had been targeted for a higher rate of inspections linked to bus maintenance, the agency said.
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