A Georgia man who was severely injured when a Greyhound bus crashed into a Utah canyon in 2017 is suing the company and its Las Vegas-based driver, accusing him of taking over-the-counter cold medicine and falling asleep at the wheel before the fatal wreck.
The bus was on the way to Las Vegas from Green River, Utah, when driver Charles Saunders veered off the road about 10:45 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2017, then hit a ditch, went airborne and slammed into a canyon wall, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in Clark County.
“Frantically, passengers fought to rescue themselves from the bus,” which came to a stop about 150 feet from the roadway, according to the complaint. “Some could crawl out and flag down help; others remained pinned in the bus or were unable to move because of their injuries.”
A 13-year-old girl died and at least 12 others, including Saunders and plaintiff Michael Edwards, were injured. Paramedics from six different jurisdictions took the wounded to hospitals in northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah for care.
Edwards was first taken to a small hospital in Price, Utah, but was flown to a bigger hospital in Provo because his condition was so severe, according to the complaint. He suffered traumatic brain injuries, multiple lacerations and fractures in his face, back, ribs and legs, among other injuries.
He still suffers from chronic pain, disfigurement and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the complaint. The lawsuit seeks damages for medical expenses, income loss and physical, mental and emotional pain, as well as attorney’s fees.
A spokeswoman with Greyhound Lines on Tuesday declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Attempts to reach Saunders were unsuccessful.
The night of the crash, Saunders had requested a replacement driver because he was feeling ill, according to the complaint, but Greyhound did not provide one. So in Green River, he took over the Las Vegas leg of the route, which started in New York City and was ultimately bound for Los Angeles.
Before Saunders boarded the bus, its previous driver also warned Saunders that the brakes were “no good,” but “mechanics in Denver had told her that the brakes were okay,” according to the complaint.
At about 9:45 p.m., Saunders “failed to address any issues with the brakes” and headed to Las Vegas, the lawsuit alleges. About 15 minutes later, a passenger noticed that Saunders appeared to be asleep at the wheel and woke him up. Saunders continued his route.
Just before the crash, Saunders again appeared to be asleep, according to the complaint. Moments before the bus left the roadway, a passenger yelled, “Driver! You’re sleeping!”
No evidence suggested Saunders tried to brake or correct his steering.
“Mr. Saunders ignored his own knowledge and known safety standards and policy and chose to drive the bus while under the influence of cold medication that impaired his ability to drive,” according to the complaint, also noting Saunders was “overly fatigued and ill.”
The wreck left Saunders critically injured, Utah Highway Patrol said at the time. It remains unclear if he is still employed with Greyhound or ever faced criminal charges in connection with the wreck.