Bus owner indicted in crash that killed 17 Vietnamese Catholic pilgrims

Angel ToursThe owner and an associate of an American owned charter bus company based in Houston Texas has been indicted on federal charges in the bus crash that killed 17 Vietnamese Catholics near Sherman Texas in 2008.

Angel de la Torre and an associate, Carlos Ortuno, owners of Angel Tours or Iguala Busmex, are charged with making false statements and other offenses. The indictment was returned on May 30. The two were taken into custody when the indictment was unsealed. Each of the charges relating to the false statements carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Fifty-five members of Houston’s Vietnamese Catholic community were en route to an annual conclave in Missouri when the bus plunged over a highway bridge near Sherman, 60 miles north of Dallas, on Aug. 8, 2008. The NTSB concluded that the crash, one of the worst in US history at the time, was caused when a retread tire on the front steering axle of the 2002 model MCI coach blew after striking and unknown object in the road causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

The NTSB said at the time that although the retread tire was not at fault, it was being used illegally on the steering axle. It was also determined that the driver of the coach, Barrett Broussard, was operating with an expired medical certificate, that the bus purchased only 16 days prior to the accident from Motor Coach Industries, had a “paper registration tag”, was not carrying the required insurance and the tour operator did not have the authority to operate in interstate commerce.

A lawsuit brought by survivors and victims families against the bus company and tour operator was settled in June of 2011. The terms were not disclosed. In addition to Angel Tours, Motor Coach Industries, the tire retreader, Henise Tire Service of Cleona, Pa. and a company that supposedly inspected the coach prior to the day of the accident, 5 Minute Inspections were also party to the suit. None admitted responsibility.