SHERMAN, TX -- In August 2008, a charter bus crashed on Highway 75 in Sherman, killing 17 people. Now, nearly 5 years later, indictments have been handed down for two men believed to be responsible. The families of the victims say they are closer to justice for their loved ones.
The owner of the bus, Angel de La Torre and an associate, were taken into custody on Wednesday after being indicted on federal charges including making false statements on official documents.
One woman says despite the delay, she's relieved that justice is being served, and she can begin to find a sense of closure.
"There are kids everywhere out here. I don't know what kind of bus this is, but there are literally kids just everywhere laid out on the ground." (911 call)
"So it's a bus?" (911 call)
August 8, 2008, just before 1:00 a.m. the Sherman dispatch center received several frantic 911 calls saying a bus had rolled off Highway 75 in Sherman. Yen-Chi Le's mother, Catherine Tuong So Lam is one of the 17 people who were killed.
"It was devastating and life altering," Le said.
55 members of Houston's Vietnamese Catholic community were headed to a conclave in Missouri when it crashed. The NTSB concluded the crash was caused when a retreaded tire on the right front axle was punctured by an object.
They say the company had past safety violations, and should never have been operating. Those findings led to the indictments of Angel de La Torre, the company owner, and an associate, Carlos Ortuno.
"I'm really pleased to see that the men, the owner and the employee, are finally being brought to justice. Even though it's a bit delayed," Le said.
Le says it's been hard for her and the other families knowing these men were walking free for the past five years.
"Part of my living is living with the consequences of his falsification, and the actions that he took prior to my mother's accident," she said.
The accident spurred changes here in Texoma and nationwide.
"We thought we were prepared for an incident like that, and we found that we weren't as well prepared as we could have been," Fire Chief Jeff Jones said.
Sherman fire Chief Jeff Jones says they are now prepared for multi-patient accidents, multi-fatality incidents, and their communication with other emergency responders in the area has improved dramatically.
Le has spent the last few years working as an advocate for the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, which was signed into law by President Obama last year. It regulates charter bus safety, and is something she is very proud of.
"Having President Obama sign that act into a law, I feel that I have a small part in helping other families to never have to go through what my family and my community went through," she said.