Flask found in SUV involved in Greyhound crash

FRESNO, Calif.

Investigators say 18-year-old Sylvia Garay was driving drunk, with Stephanie Cordoba and Vanessa Gonzalez in the vehicle with her. Garay flipped her mother's SUV minutes before the bus crashed into them. The girls, and three people on the bus, all died.

The warrant shows investigators found a crushed metal flask that smelled of alcohol in the SUV Garay was driving.

Investigators asked for Garay's phone records to track down who gave it to her. The warrant could also help a Fresno business regain its reputation.

The physical damage from July's deadly Greyhound bus accident was difficult to miss -- the crushed front end of the bus, the unrecognizable SUV, and the injured patients treated for injuries on the scene.

Six people died -- including Garay, Gonzalez and Cordoba -- who were all in an SUV that crashed on Highway 99 and later, got hit by the bus.

A new search warrant reveals how investigators figured out Garay was the driver. Seat belt marks on Gonzalez and Cordoba indicate they were on the right side of the car. Garay had no seat belt marks and was thrown from the SUV.

"I actually don't know if she was ejected from her collision or the subsequent when the bus hit her," said California Highway Patrol officer Vance Wedeking. "Who knows?"

An autopsy showed Garay had a blood alcohol content of 0.11 -- above the legal limit for any driver. But Garay was 18 and shouldn't have had any alcohol.

Investigators found wristbands on the young women, indicating they had been at the Starline Nightclub but were not allowed to drink. That's where another type of damage began.

Detectives questioned the staff, and the spotlight on Starline prompted a citywide crackdown on venues that serve alcohol, and allow minors to dance or see live music. Starline had to close its doors to anyone under the age of 21. The owner says half his business dried up.

"In 28 years, we never had a problem until this happened and then the whole world came down on us," said Steve Lipari.

But the warrant shows investigators taking a different direction. They found a flask in Garay's SUV, and friends say she was drinking before she got to Starline. The owner hopes it gives him a leg up as he works with the city to get permits to allow minors and alcohol in the same business.

"It's very possible this could be a turning point for us so we can get back on track and get back to what we were originally set up to do," said Lipari.

The highway patrol won't give any further details of the investigation until it's all wrapped up. They expect that to happen in about two months.

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