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Officials suspect tire failure caused head-on collision


Forty-seven passengers, bound for Los Angeles on Aug. 30 on a Greyhound Bus, were involved in a head-on collision when a semitrailer swerved out of control and jackknifed as it slid across the median.

Eight people died, said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas during an Aug. 31 press conference. The cause may have been a tire failure on the front driver side, Kassetas said, resulting in the 80,000-pound semitrailer losing control. The accident occurred near the 47-mile marker on Interstate 40, about three miles west of Thoreau, New Mexico.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero

Police and emergency personnel investigate an accident between a Greyhound bus and a semi Thursday on Interstate 40 west of Thoreau.

The front end of the bus, which had made a stop in Albuquerque, was obliterated from the collision with the semitrailer that was hauling a load of produce. Kassetas identified the driver of the bus as Louis Alvarez, 49, who was killed in the accident.

He did not identify any of the deceased passengers. He also did not identify the driver of the semi who was driving for Jag Transportation out of Fresno, California, because Kassetas said he could be criminally charged pending the outcome of the investigation. He added that if the cause of the fatal accident was the tire failure, it was not a chargeable offense.

He said the driver was not seriously injured. Emergency personnel from Milan, Bluewater, Gallup, the Navajo Nation, McKinley County, Cibola County, as well as Navajo police, McKinley County Sheriff’s Office and Cibola County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene. The aftermath of the crash was chaos with screaming victims, twisted metal and debris. Kassetas said passers-by, whom he called heroes, voluntarily stopped and helped victims. A total of 33 people were injured and were taken to hospitals in Gallup, Grants, Albuquerque and Phoenix. Five children, between the ages of three and 15, were also on the bus. Kassetas they were “all OK.” Seventeen of the injured were male and 16 were female, he added. The Indian Health Service released a statement on behalf of the Gallup Indian Medical Center, stating the hospital treated 21 passengers.

“Twelve patients were treated and released, four were transferred to the University of New Mexico Hospital,” IHS wrote. “One was transferred to a hospital in Arizona, four admitted to GIMC.” Three of the passengers were released and one was admitted, they continued. Navajo Nation Police Chief Philip Francisco said four Navajo police officers assisted with traffic control on the outside perimeter of the accident. Pete Kotowski, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, on Friday and gave an update and said they subpoenaed a blood sample and the medical records from the truck driver.

They also interviewed survivors to get a “perception” of what it was like on the bus before the accident happened. He said they also wanted to get an idea of where people were seated. Kotowski said the 2015 motor coach was equipped with three-point seatbelts and said Alvarez “gave a safety briefing” before leaving the bus station, explaining how to use the seatbelt. Both front tires from the semi were sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington, D.C. The electronic logging device was also removed. A similar recording device was also removed from the bus.

No other information has been released since the accident happened.

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