The B.C.-based company operating a bus that crashed Dec. 30 in Oregon, killing nine people, showed a “continuing and flagrant general disregard” for U.S. federal transport regulations, American authorities said Tuesday.
That disregard included a “pervasive failure” by Mi Joo Tour and Travel to maintain driver logs and supporting documentation designed to ensure that drivers do not operate a vehicle for more hours than they are supposed to under safety regulations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Tuesday in an “imminent hazard” bulletin.
The FMCSA ordered the company Tuesday to cease operations in the United States, and revoked its authority to provide passenger service in the country. The company has not been operating since the accident.
Mi Joo, based in Coquitlam and catering largely to a South Korean clientele, was the operator of a bus that crashed on a stretch of Interstate 84 known as Deadman Pass. Several passengers were ejected from the bus as it slid down a snowy hill. Nine people were killed and 38 others, including the driver, were injured.
In a statement issued Jan. 2 through a lawyer, Mi Joo expressed condolences for those involved in the crash and said it would close temporarily.
The day before the accident, Mi Joo allowed its employee, Haeng Kyu Hwang, to drive “far in excess” of the federally mandated maximum 70 hours of service over eight consecutive days, the bulletin states.
And on Dec. 30, the driver was at 92 hours when the bus crashed.
“The safety of all travellers on our highways and roads remains our highest priority,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We will move quickly to shut down bus companies that do not operate safely.”
A lawyer representing Mi Joo was not immediately available for comment. Calls to the company’s head office were not answered.
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation was not immediately able to say whether it would make any recommendations or take any action in light of the FMCSA order.
On Dec. 31, the provincial agency said the company had a satisfactory safety record and there had been no incidents of concern.
FMSCA records show that Mi Joo had not been involved in any reportable crashes for the two years preceding the crash. But it had run into other problems with U.S. regulators, and was fined in 2010 and in 2011 for violations of federal regulations.
Two survivors of the crash have launched a lawsuit against Mi Joo, alleging that the driver ignored road warnings and exceeded maximum driving hours.
Oregon State Police Lieutenant Gregg Hastings said authorities are “looking at everything” as they prepare a report on the crash for submission to the district attorney. The D.A. would decide how to proceed in terms of possible criminal action. “We’re still weeks away from that,” he said.
Lt. Hastings noted, again, that investigators have had an initial interview with the driver in hospital. “If we need to reach him, we’ll do any follow-up interviews,” he said.
With a report from Ian Bailey