10/24/2014

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National & World

Drivers in deadly California crash had clean records

Drivers in deadly California crash had clean records
The burned out remains of a tour bus involved in a fiery crash with FedEx truck, sits on a flatbed truck before being taken from the scene, Friday April 11, 2014 in Orland, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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ORLAND, Calif. (AP) — Both drivers in the fiery Northern California crash involving a FedEx truck and bus full of students had clean driving records.

FedEx driver Tim Evans and the driver of the chartered bus, Talalelei Lealao-Taiao, were killed along with eight passengers Thursday when the truck veered across the median of Interstate 5 and smashed into the bus.

California's Department of Motor Vehicles said neither driver had a moving violation, although Lealao-Taiao's license was briefly suspended in 2004, The Sacramento Bee reported. The reason for the suspension was not immediately clear.

The Glenn County coroner has not released official identifications, but the Bee spoke with a member of Evans' extended family, and Lealao-Taiao's employer, Silverado Stages Inc., confirmed her name.

Other than an expression of grief, the company declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

The bus was carrying 44 students from Southern California for a free tour of Humboldt State University on the state's far north coast. Many were hoping to be the first in their families to attend college. Five students and three adult chaperones died, along with the drivers.

Federal and state investigators expect to take months to determine what caused Evans to lose control of his truck, which sideswiped a sedan and collided with the bus. Dozens of injured students escaped through windows before the vehicles exploded into towering flames and billowing smoke in Orland, 100 miles north of Sacramento.

The sedan driver told investigators the truck was in flames before the crash, but the National Transportation Safety Board has said investigators found no physical evidence of a pre-impact fire or other witnesses to confirm that account.

A preliminary NTSB report is expected within 30 days; the entire investigation can last more than a year.

The bus's black-box-style electronic control module was recovered, and investigators will use other tools to reconstruct the truck's speed and maneuvers. Blood tests can tell whether either driver was impaired. The investigation will also review maintenance records and the drivers' medical histories.
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