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Investigators Seeking Cause of Bus Accident

Traffic: Nevada authorities consider bringing charges against the driver. Vehicle that skidded 200 feet across road on its side is registered to a Chatsworth firm.

September 09, 2000|KARIMA A. HAYNES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a crash in rural Nevada involving a tour bus registered to a Chatsworth company, authorities said Friday.

California Sun Line Inc., owns the luxury coach that crashed in rural Nevada on Thursday, injuring all 41 people on board, including two who lost limbs when the bus skidded 200 feet on its side across a two-lane highway, Nevada Highway Patrol Lt. Mark Malloy said.

The bus--mostly filled with British tourists--was traveling from Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., along U.S. Highway 6 about 30 miles west of Tonopah, when it crashed at 2:45 p.m.

Twenty-three passengers were listed in fair or serious condition, according to officials at University Medical Center in Las Vegas and Washoe Medical Center in Reno.

Investigators found no early evidence that mechanical failure caused the 1999 Prevo ST luxury coach to crash, Trooper Richard James said. Preliminary reports do not indicate drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash.

Malloy said investigators would review the evidence with the Esmeralda County district attorney's office to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against the driver, Lotfali D. Rankouh, 54, of San Diego.

Rankouh holds a valid commercial driver's license and has not been cited for moving violations, according to public records.

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A vice president at California Sun Line Inc., who would only give her first name, Aida, said Rankouh told her high winds buffeted the bus, causing him to lose control.

"It's an accident," she said. "We don't care about the financial problem, we just care about the people."

The company's owner, Behrouz Olandj, immediately drove to the site when he learned about the crash, she said. On Friday, Olandj was making arrangements for the tourists to return to their homes in England and Wales.

California Sun Line, which provides coaches and drivers to tour operators, has been in business for 15 years.

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