By Anne Marie Abraham, Contributor
Kyoung-Sen Kang, the guardian of two Tacoma-based exchange students who survived a bus crash in Oregon on December 30, is looking to sue the Coquitlam-based Mi Joo Tour & Travel, deeming the agency responsible for the injuries sustained by the teenage South Korean boys living with him.
A Canadian couple that survived the crash and is suffering from injuries due to the accident is also filing a lawsuit against Mi Joo Tour and Travel Ltd. They allege that the driver did not get enough sleep and that the bus was mechanically defective with inadequate windshield wipers and headlights and inappropriate tires for the weather conditions.
Requests for comment from Mi Joo were responded with referral to the agency’s lawyers.
Six international students studying at an ESL school in downtown Vancouver were also present on the bus. Two from the group of friends sustained terrible injuries. Despite the traumatic experience, they said that they want to continue their studies. After experiencing the bus crash through the guardrail at Interstate 84 and falling down a 200-foot embankment, the students were wary about taking another bus to return to Vancouver.
When the manager at Legacy Ford Lincoln, Roger Barnes, heard of their predicament, he provided SUVs with experienced drivers to take the survivors back to Vancouver.
“They know we had an accident so they drive safely,” Seokwon Kang, one of the international students, said.
Nine passengers were killed and 38 were injured in the accident. The surviving passengers alleged that the driver of the bus, Haeng Kyu Hwang, had driven over 92 hours in eight days. The Deputy Director of the BC Ministry’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement branch, Perry Dennis, said that drivers are not to exceed 70 hours of driving within a week. An audit showed that the company did not have reports of pre-trip inspections for their six buses and that there were no records of monitoring the hourly service of the drivers.
The passengers also claimed that despite several signs warning of dangerous road conditions, Hwang continued to drive too fast on the icy roads. The lawyer representing the bus company, Mark Scheer, said that there is a history of accidents in the area where the bus crashed. The strip of highway is known as Deadman Pass.
“You exhibited a careless or reckless disregard for the safety of yourself, your passengers, and the general public,” the US Department of Transportation said to Hwang.
Mi Joo has been banned from driving in the US and is suspended from operating buses in Canada. The suspension will be lifted if the company can prove that they can meet the safety requirements outlined in the Motor Vehicle Act.
“If we are satisfied that they have plans in place and they are safe to go back into operation, they will. And then we will continue to monitor them very closely,” Dennis reassured.