D.A. considers criminal charges against bus owner

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

DALLAS (AP) - Harris County prosecutors say they are considering
criminal charges against a Houston bus owner and president whose
bus crashed near Sherman, killing 17.

The dead are Vietnamese Catholics who were en route to a
religious festival in Missouri.

Of the 17 dead, 12 were killed outright. Six survivors, including the bus driver, remain hospitalized in critical condition.

State and federal investigators are examining what they say is the "grossly deficient" maintenance record of Angel De La Torre. He is owner and president of the bus company that chartered the death bus.

Rarely do owners face criminal charges in bus accidents, but it has happened.

A 2005 Hurricane Rita bus fire and explosion near Dallas left 23 passengers dead. That time, bus owner Jim Maples was convicted of failure to maintain his buses and sentenced to six months of home incarceration and six months in a halfway house. Prosecutors had sought to have him imprisoned for seven years, but he was convicted
of lesser charges.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office says they are considering filing criminal charges against angel tours incorporated if the facts from the investigation warrant it.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and a senator from Ohio are asking Congress to consider a bus safety bill that has been in the works for a few years. The bill would call for imposes federal safety regulations that could include seatbelts on motor coach buses.

"We clearly need more inspections that would at least uncover the rudimentary issues like good tires and brakes that work," Sen. Hutchison said.

In Grayson County, district attorney Joe Brown says he is not ruling out charges either, but for now nothing is certain.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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