Six dead in Greyhound bus crash

Sacramento CA July 23 2010 The Greyhound bus driver who died in a multi-fatality crash near Fresno early this morning has been identified as James Jewett, 57, of Sacramento.

Jewett has been working for the bus company for 32 years, according to a statement released by Greyhound Lines.

“This operator was an excellent driver with a clean driving record and was a very well-respected member of the Greyhound family,” the statement read. “He will be sorely missed by his colleagues and friends. Our thoughts are with the families of those affected by this incident.”

Five other people – another man and four women – were also killed when the Greyhound bus, bound for Sacramento, hit an overturned Chevrolet Trailblazer in northbound Highway 99’s fast lane at about 2:35 a.m., California Highway Patrol officials said.

The bus – which was carrying 35 people according to a Greyhound spokesman – then struck a Honda CRV.

All three vehicles careened off the highway and down an embankment, where the bus struck a eucalyptus tree.

Aside from Jewett, a 32-year Greyhound veteran, others who perished in the crash were identified as bus passengers Epifania Solis, 60, of Madera and Tomas Ponce, 79, of Mexico. Also killed were three women in the overturned sport-utility vehicle: Stephenie Cordoba, 20, of Fresno; Vanessa Gonzalez, 19, of Fresno; and Sylvia Lopez Garay, 18, of Dinuba.

Four other people were critically injured. Six had moderate injuries and many others had lacerations and bruises, CHP officials said.

The bus had left Los Angeles late Wednesday and stopped in Fresno before heading northbound toward Sacramento.

The coach’s next stop was supposed to be Madera before heading to Sacramento.

A relief bus delivered passengers who were not injured to the downtown Sacramento Greyhound bus station at around 7:30 a.m.

Arlan Snider, 41, a former Sacramento resident who was one of a dozen passengers who escaped injuries said he felt “blessed to be alive.”

Snider now lives in Phoenix and was traveling from his home in Arizona through Los Angeles to visit his mother in Sacramento.

Snider said in a sidewalk interview outside the bus station that he was sleeping in a seat in the middle of the bus around 2:35 a.m. when the bus crashed.

“I hit the seat in front of me and then hit the floor,” Snider said. “I helped a couple of people who could get off and then the medical people got there and told me to stop.”

Snider said in the confusion after the crash, passengers were searching for “those who did not get off the bus.”

He also said there was a big hole in the bus from the crash.

Snider said he will ride Greyhound again.

Nelson Valdez waited in his car across the street for his brother, Jose Valdez, 24, to come out of the station. “I’m happy,” Nelson Valdez said. “I was worried.”

Greyhound is asking that anyone who believe they had a friend or family member on bus 30601, schedule 6888, to call the busline’s hotline at (800) 972-4583.