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5 victims of deadly bus crash identified

Emergency personnel inspect a bus near Thoreau after it was destroyed by the impact of an oncoming semitrailer Thursday

Emergency personnel inspect a bus near Thoreau after it was destroyed by the impact of an oncoming semitrailer Thursday. (KQRENews13)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The medical investigator has released the names of five of the eight victims killed in Thursday’s horrific crash between a semi-tractor trailer and Greyhound bus near Thoreau, NM.

The Office of the Medical Investigator sent out a statement Saturday night identifying the deceased as Sadie Thomas, 50, Charla Bahe, 34, Terry Mason, 45, Veronica Williams, 49, and Greyhound bus driver Luis Alvarez, 50.

“My heart goes out to the families of these victims. We are always diligent to try and identify decedents quickly so we can release them back to their families,” said Dr. Kurt Nolte, Chief Medical Investigator. “We know there are other families who are still waiting for word of their loved ones and we are using several identification methods to make those identifications.”

OMI determined all eight victims died from accidental blunt force trauma.

It was around 12:30 p.m. on Thursday when the semi-tractor trailer had a tire blowout on Interstate 40 and crossed the median into oncoming traffic, running head-on into a Greyhound bus with 47 passengers aboard.

Seven people died at the scene and another died after being airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital. Dozens of others, from adults to infants, were hospitalized with injuries ranging from minor to severe. Some have been released while others are still recovering.

In the days following, two of the surviving passengers have filed lawsuits against the trucking company and its driver as officials with the National Transportation Safety Board start a lengthy investigation into what caused the incident.

Lawsuits mount

Attorney Bryan Williams, with Ron Bell Injury Lawyers, filed two lawsuits on Friday against JAG Transportation and the 35-year-old truck driver on behalf of Greyhound passengers Robert Ward of Arizona and Reid Valentine of Ohio who survived the incident.

The motion states both JAG and their driver, identified as John Doe, failed to “adequately inspect” and “adequately maintain” the tire before the blowout.

According to the motion, the driver failed to “maintain proper control” of the semi-tractor trailer after blowout and caused the collision by driving in a “negligent, malicious, willful, reckless and wanton manner.”

The motion states Ward and Reid suffered “severe shock,” “mental anguish” and “emotional distress” from the “horrendous trauma” of the other passengers’ injuries and death.

The lawsuits are seeking restitution for medical bills, lost wages, physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, property damage and punitive damages.

Neither Williams, Ward, Valentine or JAG trucking could be reached for comment Saturday.

Investigation moves forward

On Saturday, the National Transportation Safety Board outlined its investigation into how the roadway, drivers and mechanical components could have possibly attributed to the crash.

NTSB spokesman Pete Kotowski said it will close the left-hand lanes of Interstate 40 in both directions today to investigate whether the roadway and median had anything to do with the crash.

He said the NTSB has also subpoenaed toxicology and medical records for the truck driver and deceased bus driver.

Kotowski said the NTSB has taken “close examination” of the left front wheel of the semi-tractor trailer that blew out and it will be packaged and sent to Washington D.C. for further “in-depth” analysis.

Kotowski also briefly touched on the background of both JAG Transportation and Greyhound.

He said JAG Transportation began operations in 2014 and has 10 drivers and 17 vehicles.

Kotowski said the company is an “unrated carrier” which means it has not received a full compliance review, but was granted “full operating authority” in 2015 after passing the new entrance program with a satisfactory rating.

Greyhound, which operates over 1,300 buses with around 2,500 drivers, received a satisfactory rating during a 2017 compliance review.

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