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Bus operator in Oregon crash ordered to halt U.S. service

January 09, 2013|By Andrew Khouri
  • Emergency personnel responded to the scene of a fatal accident after a tour bus careened through a guardrail along an icy highway and fell down a steep embankment.
Emergency personnel responded to the scene of a fatal accident after a tour… (Tim Trainor / East Oregonian )

The Canada-based operator of a bus involved in a deadly crash on an icy eastern Oregon highway late last month has been ordered to halt all passenger service in the United States, federal officials said.

Mi Joo Tour & Travel of British Columbia has failed to ensure its drivers had sufficient rest and has exhibited a “pattern and practice of scheduling and dispatching drivers on trips without regard to hours of service requirements,” the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said Wednesday.

“The safety of all travelers on our highways and roads remains our highest priority,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We will move quickly to shut down bus companies that do not operate safely.”

The driver of the bus, Haeng Kyu Hwang, had been on duty for 92 hours over an eight-day period when the bus careened off a highway and tumbled down a hill, officials said. Under federal regulations, the limit is 70 hours.

Nine people died and 38 others were injured in the crash.

Edward Kang, the owner of Mi Joo Tour & Travel, declined to answer questions to the Associated Press regarding the Transportation Department’s decision, although he said the company is fully cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

An attorney for the company did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

The department’s action was not its first against Mi Joo Tour & Travel. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cited the company in 2011 for failing to meet drug and alcohol testing requirements. It also fined the firm in 2010 “for separate violations involving drug and alcohol testing of its drivers,” the agency said.

A spokesman for the Oregon State Police told the Los Angeles Times last week that police had conducted an “initial interview” with Hwang, the driver, while he was in the hospital. On Wednesday, spokesman Lt. Gregg Hastings declined to provide any details of the investigation because it is still ongoing.

In its order shutting down Mi Joo Tour & Travel’s U.S. operations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it found “continued noncompliance with drug and alcohol testing requirements, including no post accident drug or alcohol test on a driver involved in a fatal crash in which nine passengers were killed.”

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