FRESNO, Calif. – An 18-year-old woman driving an SUV that was struck by a Greyhound bus in a horrifying crash last week was under the influence of alcohol, the California Highway Patrol said Monday.
Friends and relatives said Sylvia Lopez Garay had been to a dance party in Fresno prior to the crash, which killed six people and injured nearly two dozen bus passengers traveling on one of central California's busiest highways.
Authorities initially said 19-year-old Vanessa Gonzalez of Fresno was behind the wheel of the SUV.
The CHP said Monday that Garay, of Dinuba, was actually driving and had a blood alcohol level above the legal driving limit. Preliminary investigations show she made an abrupt left turn across the two northbound lanes of Highway 99, and hit the center divider just after 2 a.m, flipping the Chevy Trailblazer on its side.
The bus then plowed into the Trailblazer, went off the highway's right shoulder and down a 15-foot embankment before hitting a eucalyptus tree and coming to rest with its front end smashed.
The bus driver, James Jewett, 57, of Sacramento, had a clean driving record and had been working for Greyhound since 1978, according to company officials. He died instantly of massive injuries, and was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, said Fresno County Coroner Dr. David Hadden.
Family members of all six victims are still struggling to reconcile their losses and raise money to bury their loved ones.
State records show Garay had a clean driving record.