Federal government fines LA-based bus line for violating multiple federal safety regulations

PHOENIX (AP) — A Los Angeles-based bus line involved in a fatal crash that claimed six lives south of Phoenix in March has been fined by the federal government, and its owner has been charged with safety violations.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Monday it has issued a notice of claim charging Tierra Santa Inc. owner Cayetano Martinez with multiple federal motor carrier safety violations.

FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said the government has worked tirelessly to bring this civil penalty case forward.

"We are committed to doing everything we can to prevent illegal carriers from operating and placing our road users at risk," Ferro said in a statement.

The federal government also fined the bus carrier $72,760 as a result of the investigation into the March 5 crash along the westbound Interstate 10 near Sacaton on the Gila River Indian Nation.

In the notice of claim, the transportation department charged Martinez with 78 violations of 13 separate motor carrier safety regulations including 19 counts of operating without federal authority, 21 counts of operating without required minimum insurance and 24 counts of operating in violation of a previous federal order to cease operations.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood said in a statement that DOT will continue to take every action at its disposal to vigorously pursue illegal, unsafe carriers and remove them from the road.

"Safety is our number one priority at the U.S. Department of Transportation," LaHood said.

The bus with 22 passengers was traveling from the central Mexican state of Zacatecas to Los Angeles.

It entered the United States at El Paso, Texas, and was traveling westbound early on the morning of March 5 along Interstate 10 with 22 passengers aboard when it hit a pickup, veered onto the left shoulder of the road, then overcorrected in the opposite direction and rolled once before landing on its wheels.

The roof of the bus was crushed and all of its windows were knocked out.

Arizona Department of Public Safety officials said in March that inspectors concluded the brakes of the bus were substandard enough that it should have been taken off the road.

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach representatives of Tierra Santa Inc. and Cayetano Martinez were not successful.