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home : latest news : regional February 7, 2016


7/29/2013 12:28:00 PM
Charges possible in tour bus accident
Company: Driver did everything 'absolutely right'
A tour bus was swept away by a flash flood that crossed Piece Ferry Road on Sunday. The 33 passengers, tour guide and driver escaped injury. (Courtesy)
A tour bus was swept away by a flash flood that crossed Piece Ferry Road on Sunday. The 33 passengers, tour guide and driver escaped injury. (Courtesy)
Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - A tour bus with 33 people on board rolled on its side after floating about 300 yards down a flash-flooded wash that crossed Pierce Ferry Road Sunday afternoon.

There were no injuries, a fact Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District Chief Patrick Moore described as "extremely lucky."

The tourists were headed west on Pierce Ferry Road near milepost 16 on the way back to Las Vegas from the Grand Canyon Skywalk when the driver entered the wash after reportedly seeing a passenger car successfully cross the flooded area.

The flash flooding was intense and carried along mud, rocks and other desert debris that wasn't visible to motorists.

Once it tipped at a 45-degree angle, passengers escaped through windows and were able to step on dry land. According to Moore, there wasn't a better place for it to roll.

"If they had tipped over anywhere else we wouldn't have had this outcome," said Moore. "The volume of water and mud that was raging through the wash would have been too much.

"We do swift water rescues in the Kingman area, but there is nothing that could have prepared us to save 33 people."

While it took most responders an hour to get to the remote site, they showed up en masse. Along with the NACFD, other responders included the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District, Kingman Fire Department, Care Flight Air Ambulance, River Medical/AMR Ambulance, National Park Service and the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.

While Mohave County Sheriff's spokeswoman Trish Carter said charges against the driver might be filed, Bessy Lee of CHD Tours said the driver did everything "absolutely right."

"He stopped and checked the road," said Lee, the marketing and brand director. "He saw the passenger car go through the wash and even the passengers and tour guide said it should be OK to cross."

Lee said the driver was cautious, and if anything he drove too slow.

"The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings, but we didn't have that information. There was no rain and it was sunny out. He saw the passenger car drive through the wash and we were in an 18-wheel bus," said Lee.

She also noted Pierce Ferry Road is the only way in and out of the area and traffic was backed up.

"The driver did a fabulous job," she said.

Lee was critical of Mohave County for not having officers in the area to warn motorists.

"You'd think the authorities would be out there to tell people to please be careful. There were no warnings."

Lee was also critical of the one-hour response time.

Moore disputed that statement, saying firefighters with the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District were on scene within 15 minutes. He said it took that long for other emergency service providers to reach the scene due to other flooded washes in the area that slowed them down.

He also questioned the veracity of the driver's contention that a passenger vehicle safely maneuvered through the flooded wash.

"I have trouble believing that," said Moore. "I have a hard time believing a small car could make it through."

Moore said the pavement on Pierce Ferry Road had been washed away and water was 6 to 7 feet deep in some areas.

Lee stood by the driver, saying he did "absolutely nothing incorrect. Not a single thing."

She also said the most important element of the incident is that nobody was hurt or killed.

"The driver maintained his cool, the passengers remained calm. I still wish the warnings issued by the National Weather Service were used by authorities to warn drivers."

The only casualty was the bus, said Lee.

"It was brand-spanking new," she said. "We've had it for three months and it cost us $600,000 and it is totaled," she said.



Re/Max - cdavidcooley (rentals/sales)
Related Stories:
• Sheriff: 'Stupid motorist' law will apply with conviction
• Reckless driving charge issued against bus driver from flood
• Troubled fire district's debt slowly receding


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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, August 5, 2013
Article comment by: Site Steward

Re: concerned citizen:

I also take issue with you by referring to my chosen pseudonym in quotation marks as if you are attempting to make fun and impugn my credibility just because of my interpretation and opinion on that statute. It is also not necessary to make fun of anyone’s education when not applicable, especially when I did not claim to have a law degree.

I could choose any of following pseudonyms based on my employment and experiences with: California Conservation Corps member, CDF Fire Fighter and U.S Air Force Gulf War Veteran.

Currently, I am a volunteer with the State of Arizona Historic Parks and Preservation Office Site Steward Program, and my goal and responsibility is to protect our State’s historic, cultural, archeological and natural resources on public and state land, also while educating and looking out for the safety of the public who like to visit those resources.


Posted: Monday, August 5, 2013
Article comment by: Site Steward

Re: Concerned citizen:

Yes, I realized now the correct meaning of that clause in that statute, but you were the first one to mention that law in the first place, not even the reporter.

However, why are you so gleeful by proving me wrong and thrilled that the tour bus company will not have pay for the rescue services whom the driver endangered the lives of his passengers? I’m sure that the rescue agencies that responded to that incident are not thrilled about that.

I was just trying to interpret that that law with common sense, not that I was claiming to be expert on Arizona Revised Statutes, which you apparently are. I was satisfied with V Stokes explanation, so why did you not challenge him with his opinion that the bus company should have to pay for any expenses for rescue services provided?

By the way, it is interesting how you know that the Sheriff will not be ticketing him for that particular law, when Trish Carter told me that the investigation is still ongoing and that they can not give any further information to the public yet.


Posted: Sunday, August 4, 2013
Article comment by: Donna Wickerd

"Lee was critical of Mohave County for not having officers in the area to warn motorists.

"You'd think the authorities would be out there to tell people to please be careful. There were no warnings."

Lee was also critical of the one-hour response time."

Seriously, what do they expect? This is the wilderness, they drive through our county without stopping on the way to GCW and spend no money in between. Do they have any idea that we have only two deputies and two EMTs on duty for an area larger than some states? Maybe if these bus companies would pay something toward our fire department we wouldn't be in the mess we are in!!


Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2013
Article comment by: Good Riddance

It really doesn't matter what the weather because the drivers of these charter buses
drive unsafely. They speed, pass on hills & curves, not only in the county on Pierce Ferry Rd & Stockton Hill RD but inside city limits.
So many of these buses are not maintained on a regular basis. I would never let my family ride on a charter bus.


Posted: Thursday, August 1, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

Sorry "Site Steward," the inclusion of the word "and" means that both conditions have to be present. They weren't!
Besides, I've contacted the Sheriff's office, and they won't be ticketing him for that particular law. They may fine him for other things but the Stupid Motorist Law doesn't apply if there are no barricades.
School is closed for you, for now.


Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Article comment by: V Stokes

@Site Steward...
I'd agree with you if it said ",or that is barricaded". After reading many statutes, it appears they use a lot of "and's" to tie all the required offenses/actions together for a violation and use "or's" to make them all separate offenses/actions for which you can be held liable.

Irregardless...the driver is acting for the company and IMO they should have to pay for any expenses for rescue/services provided.


Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Article comment by: Dennis Schroeder

The comments by John Q. Public pretty much nailed it. I am a SKYWARN Spotter with NWS in Las Vegas. Training/informing members of the general public in weather issues is an important part of their misson.
A passenger car, a 4WD vehicle, a pontoon boat, or a bus can be floated very easily. It was stated that a car made it "safely through". One must realize that a bus is obviously larger and heavier than a car. The car may have weakened the roadway to a degree where it is not capable to support the greater weight of the bus.
It is very fortunate that no lives were lost .


Posted: Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Article comment by: Site Steward

concerned citizen:

I don’t think so. Read the entire statute again.

A. A driver of a vehicle who drives the vehicle on a public street or highway that is temporarily covered by a rise in water level, including groundwater or overflow of water, and that is barricaded because of flooding is liable for the expenses of any emergency response that is required to remove from the public street or highway the driver or any passenger in the vehicle that becomes inoperable on the public street or highway or the vehicle that becomes inoperable on the public street or highway, or both.

Note the comma after “overflow of water, AND that is barricaded”, which the keyword “and” is describing two significant flooding circumstances.

Plus, there was already a sign posted “DO NOT ENTER WHEN FLOODED”.


Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: two points .....

As a former commercial driver for many years, I can tell you that driver-employees (as opposed to owner-operators) are not responsible for vehicle maintenance. That said, as commercial drivers, they are responsible to a higher standard of safe driving.

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: concerned citizen

I guess I will be the only one to partially defend this driver.
"The “Stupid Motorist Law”, which corresponds to section 28-910 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, states that any motorist who becomes stranded after driving around barricades to enter a flooded stretch of roadway may be charged for the cost of his/her rescue."
If he didn't drive any barricades, then he didn't technically violate the law. This happens all the time in Phoenix, where people are complaining about other drivers driving into washes and not being ticketed.
However, it was a very dangerous thing for the driver to do and could have cost many lives!


Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: gary sims

As readers have written, there is no excuse for this to have happened. The National Weather Service had issued a severe flood warning for the area. With the broadcast warning came a warning to avoid all washes and low-lying areas. Also advised drivers to turn around and don't drown. The message was broadcast over the local radio stations as well as the Las Vegas stations.I am sure the new buses have FM radios plus contact with their home office in Las Vegas. There is no excuse for this to have happened.

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: V Stokes

I wonder what the insurance will say about the drivers actions? I imagine something along the lines of "Claim Denied"?

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: massive brain

Give his the " I'm dumb award" and a ticket

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: Frank Lee Speaking

"Bessy Lee of CHD Tours said the driver did everything "absolutely right.""

And if you can't trust the word of a company rep who was not even there, whose word can you trust. (sarcasm, off).

"We've had it for three months and it cost us $600,000 and it is totaled," she said."

And it is likely that their insurance carrier will laugh if they try and file a claim, given the circumstances.

LOL


Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: KDM online reader

To book a tour to the Skywalk with CHD Tours, thier website is http://portal.chdestination.com/about-us/

LOL!


Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: Jack A. Lope

did anybody notice he said traffic was backed up. If he saw traffic backed up he had to have gone around them. there is also a film of this happening. and one of the 911 calls, referring to him as stooopid. These idiots need to start getting charged.

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: Dee Schmidt

The good news to this story is no one was hurt and there was no fatalities.

The bus driver should be fined the AZ stupid motorist law ticket being that he did pass the sign that read DO NOT ENTER WHEN FLOODED! If the company is saying this is insulting then he shouldn't have driven though the flooded wash in the first place and put 33 lives at risk. This would teach ALL bus drivers from this company when driving here in AZ and you see the signs DO NOT ENTER WHEN FLOODED! especially when its raining DON'T ENTER or you'll get the ticket.
It wouldn't be fare if he didn't get the ticket being that he is from out of state, then again would it still be fare if 33 lives were lost if he still got the ticket, either way who is being insulted here the lives of 33 passengers, the bus driver who can't read a sign, or a bus company who needs to let their drivers know that they need to follow rules and regulations for outside their States and pay the fines no matter what they are if its for speeding, accidents, and the AZ STUPID MOTORIST LAW.

Since the company is worried about the bus so much, don't they realize that they can replace the bus, however do they also realize if something happened to the 33 passengers do they realize that they couldn't be replaced like the bus can. A $600,000 bus can be replace for this company to where a family has to pay out $600,000 or more for a funeral if a life was lost do to the bus driver ignoring the warning sign DO NOT ENTER WHEN FLOODED!


Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: Angry Taxpayer

"Lee was critical of Mohave County for not having officers in the area to warn motorists."
In a society that appears to have no common sense, we require people on site to tell us the obvious.
I guess I'm just old school...I wait until the water subsides before I cross. Even if someone before me is lucky enough to make it through.


Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: One who wonders

I have seen numerous billboards in Vegas illustrating the consequences of crossing flooded drainages and washes. Many with humerous sayings to help the mesage stick in your mind. Why would an employee from a company in Vegas think they could cross an obviously fast flowing wash in Mohave County? I think 'everthing right' is not the correct phase to use in this instance! The company should care enough about their customers to do their own monitoring of weather related problems and not rely on outside agencies. Is not the Weather Channel and their ilk available in Vegas? Just wondering.

Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Article comment by: Trained Observer

Lee's drivers need to know about the Stupid Driver Law here in AZ. Her driver did nothing right. Nothing.

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: I BEEN EVERYWHERE MAN

yeah lets post a police present at all washes because of stupid people on the planet...Welcome to the desert and now you know why Arizona has a stupid motorist law.

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: Really should know better

A driver is in charge of these lives should have more respect for the strength flowing flash flood rivers. I would have never taken other lives not even one into harms way. I received flash flood warnings on my text message device. The company thats in charge of this bus service should have restricted drivers from performing this much risk to its customers. Who is the safety person managing this bus line? Was there any training for flash floods? Was there any warnings issued to their drivers? Its not the law enforcement's fault. Driving during this storm was dangerous for everyone including emergency response workers.

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: Uncle Anson

Dear Ms Bessie Lee -
Arizona has a "Stupid Motorist Law" The Law of the Land is to not enter a road with water is flowing over it. Your driver was irresponsible as was the driver of the car that your driver decided to follow. Criticize all you want but the fact is that there would have been no reason to complain about a response time if your Driver didn't qualify as a total idiot...that'is the bottom line. And you Ms Lee are not the least bit responsible to support an employee that knowingly violates not only the law but the trust that your passengers placed in your organization. As for blaming the Officials that responded, they placed their lives on the line to traverse the flooded conditions. Something that YOU and your DRIVER were PERSONALLY responsible for preventing by simply obeying the "Stupid Motorist Law". The very least you can do (because you sure won't accept responsibility for your actions) is refund the response costs of every agency IN FULL.


Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: Step Up

It doesnt take a rocket scientist to realize you DONT CROSS FLOODED WATERWAYS no matter how shallow they may look. The NWS stresses this quite often.

Posted: Monday, July 29, 2013
Article comment by: Jack Dundee

I hope the "Stupid Motorist" law is in effect for this emergancy reponse. The tour company's sure love the money they make, how about they send some back to the local Fire Districts!


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