Tour Bus Crash

8/3/2008 Merced County, CA, USA 81-year old Lawrence Stafford was among the 30 people onboard when the bus smashed into the back of a truck hauling tomatoes on Highway 152 just outside Los Banos. One passenger had to be airlifted, 11 others rushed to area hospitals.

"I was rows back, so I didn't know. All I seen was a bunch of glass flying and that put me down," recalls Stafford.

The bus left the Monterey area around 8:30 Sunday morning. The CHP says its investigation shows the driver was apparently asleep at the wheel when the accident happened an hour later. Investigators say passengers in the front seats said the driver, Javier Banuelos of San José, drifted from the fast lane all the way over to the side of the road and back.

Mike Panelli, California Highway Patrol, says "He was possibly asleep and they were attempting to yell at him to wake him up just prior to impact. We don't know if they were successful in that or not, apparently they weren't."

Marie Meoscutt, passenger, says "Just a complete jar the bus kind of swerved and for a bit we thought, we thought it was going to tip but it didn't so we were thankful for that."

Meoscutt was part of a group headed to the casino to celebrate a 92-year old friend's birthday. The elderly woman and her grandson were among the injured. But she says this accident will only delay the celebration. "She's a strong person, full of energy for her age. I hope I'm like that when I get there," says Meoscutt.

All of the injured should make a full recovery.


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