LAS VEGAS (AP) — A tour bus driver had tried to fix a problem door and was blinded by the sun’s glare just before the bus crashed near Hoover Dam last month, killing seven passengers, an investigator said today.
“We know he was distracted by that door,” National Transportation Safety Board lead investigator Peter Kotowski told reporters. Witnesses told investigators the driver’s side door was open at one point just before the bus crashed.
Kotowski said the driver also “indicated he was blinded by sun glare” just before he lost control of the bus around 4 p.m. on Jan. 30 as he was driving the group of Chinese tourists to Las Vegas from the Grand Canyon.
Investigators have not found anything wrong with the driver-side door or any other mechanical problems on the bus, Kotowski said. A determination on the cause of the crash won’t be made until next year.
A tour guide and six Chinese tourists were killed in the crash along U.S. 93 in Arizona, 26 miles south of the Nevada state line. Ten others were injured, including the driver. Han Dong, 48, of Rosemead, Calif., remained hospitalized in fair condition today.
Officials said they believe the driver veered onto the right shoulder and overcorrected before losing control, crossing a desert median and overturning. Investigators have not determined the speed of the bus at the time of the crash.
Kotowski said Dong was properly licensed to drive the 29-passenger bus and had been working for the carrier, D.W. Tour & Charter of San Gabriel, Calif., for about six months. Arizona law enforcement officials will review the federal findings before determining whether Dong will face charges, he said.
The bus did not contain seat belts and was not required to, Kotowski said. Fifteen of the 17 passengers were ejected through the windows.
D.W. Tour & Charter was listed as satisfactory in a federal compliance review in August 2007, according to records from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The agency has said it will conduct another review in light of the crash.
Six passengers remained hospitalized Saturday, one in critical condtion.