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Tires On Bus Involved In Deadly Desert Crash Didn't Have Enough Tread

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The crash occurred on the 10 West, north of Palm Springs. (Screengrab/not knbc)
Though the investigation into what exactly caused a deadly bus crash in Desert Hot Springs could go on for the next several months, officials have determined that some of the bus' tires were in such poor condition that the bus could have been taken out of service.

On Sunday morning, just after 5 a.m., a tour bus shuttling passengers from the Red Earth Casino in Thermal back to Los Angeles crashed head-on into the back of a semi-truck. The truck was nearly stopped due to utility work over the freeway, and the bus smashed into it at a high rate of speed. Thirteen people were killed and another 31 were injured. One survivor told the Times, "The front six rows, where 12 people were sitting, were squashed together. Everyone, dead and alive, was covered with blood."

Officials have determined that four of the bus' eight tires were out of compliance, according to The Desert Sun. The L.A. Times reports that this included two steer axel tires, which are essential when controlling the bus. The tires should have had at least 4/32 of an inch of tread, but did not. The bus was last inspected by CHP officials in April, and at that point, the bus passed. CHP Capt. Laura Quattlebaum is confident that the tires were fine then, and said that the onus of ensuring the bus remained in compliance with safety standards would have been on the owner of the bus.

The bus was the single vehicle belonging to Alhambra-based USA Holidays, a company that provided affordable trips by night from Los Angeles to various casinos in the Mojave Desert. The company's owner, Teodulo Elias Vides, was also driving the bus that night and was killed in the collision.

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Vides had been sued twice in the past: once in 2004 when a USA Holidays bus crashed into a car in Riverside, and again in 2007 when a USA Holiday bus also crashed into a car in Riverside, that time killing three people. The former case was settled and the second was dismissed. Vides also had a long history of traffic citations in multiple counties, and his company had received six unsatisfactory ratings from CHP in the past.

Though investigators previously thought the 1996 bus' engine might be too old to offer much insight into the crash, it turns out the engine was replaced in 2005. That means it's new enough to contain a device that would record data such as the bus' conditions, speed and whether or not Vides tried to stop before crashing into the truck.

What role, if any, the tires played in the crash is unclear at this point. The investigation will consider several other factors as it progresses, including the conditions both inside and outside of the bus.