Three lawsuits filed in Greyhound bus crash

FRESNO, Calif.

The California Highway Patrol's 627-page investigation report put the blame on 18-year-old Sylvia Garay. It said the Dinuba teen was driving drunk, and started the chain reaction collision. But a lawsuit filed by her parents points fingers elsewhere.

Monday would've been Sylvia Garay's 20th birthday. Her family is spending time at her gravesite and pushing forward with a lawsuit to make others take some responsibility for her death.

After the scene of the deadly bus crash cleared, investigators worked for months to determine exactly how it happened. In the end, they put the blame solely on one teenage girl.

"The conclusion of this comprehensive investigation revealed that Sylvia Garay caused the collision by driving under the influence of alcohol," said CHP assistant chief Steve Badilla after releasing the report.

Investigators said the 18-year-old was drunk with a blood alcohol content of at least .11 when she flipped her mom's Chevy Trailblazer on Highway 99. But Garay's parents believe their daughter -- who was one of six people to die in the crash -- shouldn't shoulder the blame alone. They've filed a lawsuit and ABC-30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says they may have a case.

"The mere fact that she was inebriated or over .08 doesn't necessarily mean that was the cause of the accident," he said. "There may have been some other cause. It could've been the design of the highway. It might have been the design of the automobile. [It] could be negligence on behalf of the bus driver."

Olga and Victor Garay's lawsuit targets greyhound -- claiming the bus driver, James Jewett, was sleep-deprived and speeding.

A Greyhound spokesperson told Action News Jewett followed the law on rest time between shifts, and the CHP investigation said Jewett had no chance to stop.

The lawsuit also claims a CHP dispatcher could've prevented the crash by sending officers who were closer to the scene of the initial rollover. The second, deadly crash happened less than three minutes later.

The Garays also point blame at the California Department of Transportation, General Motors -- which made the Trailblazer -- and the Starline nightclub, even though investigators say Garay wasn't served alcohol there.

Capozzi says the Garays could win even if, ultimately, Sylvia caused the crash.

"What the plaintiff has to show is that some other factor is a percentage of the cause," he said. "It doesn't have to be the total cause of the accident."

Olga Garay didn't want to talk on camera, but she told Action News she wants people to know her daughter was not some kind of monster. She was a high school graduate with a bright future.

It could take years for the Garays' lawsuit to work its way through the courts.

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