RENO — Driver fatigue is a possible cause of a deadly crash of a resort’s shuttle bus in California’s Sierra Nevada, authorities said Sunday.
Investigators are focusing also on whether the driver had a medical condition that contributed to the early Saturday accident, which killed one passenger and injured 24 others, California Highway Patrol officer Steve Skeen said. All of the bus passengers were resort workers.
The bus, operated by the Resort at Squaw Creek, just north of Lake Tahoe, veered off Interstate 80, struck a guardrail and rolled at least once before stopping in a ditch about 20 miles west of Reno.
The driver, whose name has not been released, was interviewed by an investigator on Saturday but provided few details because he was on pain medication for a head injury, Skeen said.
Plans call for him to be interviewed again after he sufficiently recovers. Passengers are being questioned, too.
Investigators are looking at fatigue because the driver had a “restless sleep” the night before and “did some driving” before picking up resort employees in Reno to take them to work, Skeen said.
“He said he was up a few times during the night and didn’t sleep that good,” Skeen said. “Possibly, he may have fallen asleep or nodded off at the wheel.”
The driver’s health was reported to be good, but investigators are awaiting tests to determine whether a medical condition caused the accident.
“Did he have a heart attack or an aneurysm? With him not braking or steering (as the bus left the freeway), something was going on there,” Skeen said. Driver inattention has not been ruled out, he said.
Drugs or alcohol do not appear to be factors, investigators said, and the weather was clear and the interstate dry.
Of the 24 people sent to hospitals in Reno and Truckee, Calif., 11 remained hospitalized Sunday, authorities said.
One was listed in critical condition, four in serious condition and five in fair condition. The condition of another passenger was unknown.
Most of the passengers were Hispanic immigrants who worked in the resort’s housekeeping and food departments, company spokesman Les Pedersen said.
“The driver had been working for us for several years and he had a perfect record,” Pedersen said. “We never had any problems with him.”