01/08/2013 07:41 EST | Updated 03/10/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. firm in Oregon bus crash ordered to halt U.S. operations

The B.C. company at the centre of a deadly bus crash in Oregon last month has been ordered to cease operations in the United States because it allegedly failed to follow several safety regulations, including having limits on drivers' hours.

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued an “imminent hazard operations out-of-service order” for Mi Joo Tour and Travel.

A bus operated by the company careened off a highway and into a gully in eastern Oregon on Dec. 30, killing nine people and injuring 38.

The order says the company is indifferent to safety on its buses and that effective immediately, Mi Joo Tour and Travel must cease commercial vehicle operations in the U.S.

According to Department of Transportation documents obtained by CBC News, Mi Joo was flagged for several safety violations in reviews carried out before the Dec. 30 crash, and since the accident, the department's investigators have found further violations and a deterioration in safety management control.

Mi Joo was cited for 19 violations between 2010 and 2011, including:

- Failure to ensure drivers are properly rested and operating hours were properly logged.

- Failure to implement mandatory drug and alcohol testing for drivers.

- Failure to regularly inspect push-out windows, emergency doors and emergency lights.

Investigators say Mi Joo allowed the driver to work for 92 hours in the time leading up to the crash — 22 more hours than the maximum allowable level of 70 over an eight-day period.

The company has been ordered to cease operations in the U.S. until several conditions are met.

Lawsuit launched by bus passengers

Meanwhile, two of the injured bus passengers have launched a lawsuit in Washington, claiming the driver ignored warnings about treacherous conditions in the area.

The lawsuit alleges two days prior to the accident, the driver had worked more than 27 and a half hours, according to lawyer Charles Hermann.

"He drove more than 600 miles [966 kilometres] each day, so there's no question in our mind that he was extremely fatigued," said Hermann.

In Canada, bus drivers are allowed to be on duty for 16 hours a day and are only able to drive for 14 of those hours.

In the U.S., the rules are stricter. Bus drivers are allowed to only be on duty for 14 hours and to drive for only 12.

The company issued a statement Tuesday afternoon that did not directly address the U.S. order, but said “Mi Joo Tours is fully co-operating with the investigation of the accident and, again, wishes to extend its deepest sympathy to those affected by this accident.”

The company is expected to make a public statement about the incident on Wednesday afternoon in Seattle.