NTSB highlights 3 factors in deadly 2020 California bus crash

Worn tires and excess speed contributed to a California bus crash two years ago that killed three people and injured 18, according to a report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Contributing to the severity of injuries was that most of the passengers weren’t wearing seat belts.

The 30-passenger minibus operated by Executive Lines was in Pala Mesa in San Diego county in southbound lanes of Interstate 15 when it veered off the roadway and rolled one and a half times down an embankment coming to rest on its roof.

Two years after the Feb. 22, 2020, crash, which happened around 10:30 a.m., investigators released their findings of the deadly crash. In addition to the three passengers who were killed, 12 were seriously injured, and five passengers and the driver received minor injuries. 

Crash data

The NTSB investigation found the tread depths on two of the inside rear tires were lower than the minimum allowed by law, which “adversely affected the stability of the bus and contributed to the loss of control.”

The bus driver was traveling at about 75 mph, which investigators said was too fast for the wet roadway.

“Piecing together data downloaded from the bus, tire marks on the road and interviews with the driver, investigators concluded that the driver took two critical actions — sustained braking and steering inputs inconsistent with what would be needed to keep the bus on the road — that contributed to the loss of control,” the NTSB said in a statement announcing the findings.

This photo taken on Feb. 22, 2020, shows the overturned mini bus on the embankment in its final resting position. (California Highway Patrol​​)

The report had some pretty important recommendations for the industry, said Ken Presley, UMA’s Legislative & Regulatory Affairs & Industry Relations. 

The bus was a body-on-chassis coach for 30 passengers, operated by a legitimate company, Executive Lines. At the time, the company a USDOT “Satisfactory” rating, although had been cited for maintenance violations, according to news reports.  The Los Angeles county company specialized in charters from Los Angeles to San Ysidro, with many of their passengers heading to Tijuana International Airport.

“The 52-year-old driver was driving 20 passengers at 10:30 in the morning after moderate rainfall. Sounds like a typical day in the bus industry,” Presley said.


The report includes three recommendations for preventing similar crashes.

  1. Create a policy on speed and safe driving on wet roadways and under inclement weather conditions. If you have one, this is a good time to make sure it is up to date and all drivers are aware of it.
  2. Look at your tire rotation practices. Executive Lines had a tire rotation program but, apparently, there were issues. Check with the OEM and tire manufacturers to see if standards have changed to get the best life out of tires. Also, the guidelines from the U. S. Tire Manufacturers will likely prove helpful. 
  3. Make sure drivers are giving pre-trip safety briefings that include asking passengers to buckle up. These are required under California law.

“Certainly, these injuries affect our overall insurance rates and affect everybody’s insurance rates, so it’s definitely worth the industry making an effort to make sure those pre-trip safety briefings are given. Some of you have a video that automatically comes on,” Presley said. “Make sure that’s functional and make sure that it includes a heads-up on buckling up if your vehicle has seat belts.”

He added that there is a lot of stake for motorcoach companies.

“It’s your coach and it’s your reputation, and it’s your capital and investments that are at risk, along with a $5 million check from your insurance company,” Presley said. “Unfortunately, this company, despite probably being a pretty average bus company, has gone out of business. I suspect the insurance thing got them.

“NTSB plans to have someone on UMA Town Hall soon. The nuances of every crash investigation helps all of us prevent crashes that lead to loss of life, bodily injuries and property damage.”


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