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Preliminary hearing underway for trucker in deadly Palm Springs bus crash

A truck driver who fell asleep behind the wheel of his big rig while it was parked along Interstate 10 before a tour bus crashed into the rear of the vehicle, killing 13, pleaded guilty in Indio curt Friday

Bruce Guilford, 51, of Covington, Georgia, was sentenced to four years in prison for his involvement in the October 23, 2016 crash.

In February 2018, a California Highway Patrol investigator testified that Guilford had violated numerous federal regulations, eschewing standards for mandatory sleeping breaks and maximum driving hours.

12 passengers of the USA Holiday company bus were killed, as well as the driver/owner of the company Teodulo Elias Vides. 31 people were also injured in the collision.

Guilford, who was arrested in Georgia late last year, is charged with more than 40 felony and misdemeanor counts, including vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving causing injury.

CHP Officer Scott Parent testified Tuesday that after comparing Guilford’s driver logs and the GPS device on his truck, he found that Guilford drove in excess of maximum driving time limits, which include mandates that drivers spend no longer than 11 hours per day on the road, not work longer than
14 hours after one’s shift begins and take a required 30-minute break per every eight hours of driving.

Parent testified that Guilford drove in violation of those regulations nearly every day of his round trip from Eufaula, Alabama, to Salinas.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office filed the charges against Guilford about two weeks before the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that both Guilford and Vides were both sleep-deprived.

Parent alleged that Guilford violated maximum driving time regulations and tried to hide the violations by falsifying his driver’s daily log, with the nearly nonstop driving he allegedly undertook resulting “in acute sleep deprivation,” he wrote in an arrest warrant declaration.

Following a traffic break conducted by CHP to facilitate utility work on the freeway, Guilford and other motorists came to a standstill on the freeway for five to 10 minutes while work got underway. Parent alleged that Guilford set his parking brake, then fell asleep as the traffic break was
lifted and remained stopped for about a minute, until he was struck by the bus.

The officer said video footage captured from CHP officers conducting the traffic break and surveillance from a nearby FedEx building captured the truck stationary on Interstate 10 as cars slowed, then drove around it.

Parent testified that in an interview with Guilford, the trucker said that before the crash, he’d been stopped for 25 to 30 minutes during the traffic break. Parent, who alleged that the truck was stopped for at most two minutes, said Guilford denied falling asleep.

Guilford was “not the party determined to be most at fault for this collision,” but his falling asleep behind the wheel “was a substantial factor in the deaths of 13 individuals,” Parent alleged in his declaration.

NTSB investigators said Vides had also barely slept leading up to the wreck and crashed his bus into the truck at 76 mph despite having about 20 seconds to see the rig and take evasive action. An NTSB report released last fall said Vides had slept about four hours in the 35 hours preceding the crash.

NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said, “In this crash, not one but two commercial vehicle drivers — people who drive for a living — were unable to respond appropriately to cues that other motorists did act on.”

Guilford remains held in Riverside County jail in lieu of $500,000 bail. His preliminary hearing is set to resume Wednesday morning.

KESQ News Team

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