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Orange County Digest

Westminster : Truck in Fatal Collision Was Speeding, CHP Says

May 24, 1985|Dave Palermo

A Utah truck driver was traveling too fast and his brakes hadn't been properly maintained when he rear-ended a tour bus March 29 near Barstow, killing a Westminster man and another person and injuring 34 others, a California Highway Patrol investigator said Thursday.

The driver, Terry Gene Marks, 41, was traveling between 60 and 70 m.p.h. and "made no evasive action whatsoever" when his flatbed truck struck the rear of the bus, traveling between 45 and 55 m.p.h. on a down slope of Interstate 15 near the California-Nevada state line, CHP Capt. Bob Hayworth said.

Hayworth said his 196-page report will be forwarded to the San Bernardino County district attorney's office, where authorities will decide whether to file charges against Marks.

Two of the passengers, Pedro Benitez, 51, of Westminster, and Frank Boris, 45, of Carson, were killed when they were flung through the bus windshield. They were among 39 TWA employees and family members aboard the chartered bus bound for a weekend in Las Vegas.

A $7.5-million lawsuit filed by Benitez's family against the truck driver, the bus company and Union Oil Co. of California, which was shipping products on the truck, claims Benitez acted heroically when he grabbed the bus steering wheel, causing it to strike an embankment and preventing it from plunging down a 40- to 60-foot ravine.

Hayworth said there is no evidence that Benitez's actions prevented the bus from falling into the ravine. "What Benitez did try to do was help the bus driver," Hayworth said.

Both Benitez and Boris were killed because they left their seats when the two vehicles collided and were tossed through the windshield when the bus hit the embankment, Hayworth said.

Hayworth said the report clears American First Tours of Inglewood and its driver, Cecil Ray.

The lawsuit was filed in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of Benitez's widow, Brunilda Benitez, who was aboard the bus, and other family members.

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