Prescription drugs, fatigue cited in deadly crashes

SAN ANTONIO – A grand jury has indicted a Texas pickup truck driver accused of causing an accident in March that killed 13 people in a minibus returning from a church retreat.

Meanwhile, the Merced County (Calif.) district attorney’s office filed four felony counts of vehicular manslaughter and five misdemeanor vehicle code violations against a tour bus driver involved in a 2016 accident that killed four passengers.

In the Texas case, the Uvalde County district attorney’s office said Jack Dillon Young, 20, was indicted on multiple charges, including intoxication manslaughter and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury.

A National Transportation Safety Board report said Young told investigators he was checking his phone for a text when the crash occurred near San Antonio. He said he had taken prescription drugs before the crash and investigators found marijuana in his pickup, the report said.

The driver of the bus and 12 passengers from First Baptist Church of New Braunfels were killed when Young’s pickup struck the bus. One passenger survived and was hospitalized with serious injuries. All were senior adult members of the church.

An affidavit from a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper seeking a blood test for a toxicology report said there was probable cause to believe Young was intoxicated during the collision because Young acknowledged ingesting prescription drugs including clonazepam and the generic forms of Lexapro and Ambien.

In California, Mario David Vasquez of Los Angeles, who was driving a tour bus on Aug. 2, 2016, outside Livingston when he left the roadway and crashed into a pole, splitting the bus down the middle.

The crash killed four passengers and seriously injured eight others.

Officials said the logbook kept by Vasquez showed he slept 6 1/2 hours before driving, but that cellphone records contradict that record. They said they believe driver fatigue led to the deadly crash.

Besides being charged with vehicular manslaughter, Vasquez was charged with misdemeanor violations stemming from the falsification of his daily log book, failure to keep accurate records and violating laws relating to maximum driving time for commercial drivers.

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