01/11/2013 05:42 EST | Updated 03/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Oregon Bus Crash: Mi Joo Tour, Travel Suspended In Canada


VANCOUVER - British Columbia has put the brakes on the operations of a tour bus company involved in a crash in Oregon that killed nine people after an audit revealed safety records required under the law were not available.

The Transportation Ministry said Friday that Mi Joo Tour and Travel Ltd. of Coquitlam, B.C., also failed to provide pre-trip inspection reports related to its six buses.

"What we found in the audit was that they're not able to provide records ensuring that they're monitoring their drivers for hours of service," said Perry Dennis, deputy director of the ministry's Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement branch.

He said drivers cannot exceed 70 hours of service within a week and must take eight hours off within a 24-hour cycle.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation filed an "imminent hazard" order against the company, saying it doesn't ensure drivers are properly rested.

The Mi Joo tour bus smashed through a guardrail on Interstate-84 on Dec. 30 and flipped over end to end before plunging about 60 metres down a snowy embankment near Pendleton, Ore., by a stretch called Deadman Pass.

Nine passengers, including a Canadian man, were killed, and 38 people were injured — among them the 54-year-old driver, a deacon at a Methodist church in Surrey, B.C.

Two Korean exchange students who survived the crash have filed a lawsuit against the company in Washington state, saying the driver was working up to 100 hours during the first eight days of a trip from Las Vegas to B.C.

The suit, by Jong-Hyun Chae and Seong-June An, also alleged the driver ignored warnings of poor conditions and didn't slow down on icy roads.

The boys' lawyer, Charles Herrmann, said the driver would have been allowed a maximum of 70 hours under U.S. law. Instead, he said the man was working 10 to 12 hours for the first six days and 27 hours in the two days before the crash.

Hermann also alleged the driver passed three signs warning of the dangerous roadway ahead before the fatal crash.

On Wednesday, Mark Scheer, a lawyer for the bus company, said black ice, not driver fatigue, led to the crash and that the area has a history of traffic accidents.

He said the driver, Haeng Hwang, had about seven and a half hours' sleep the night before the crash and had been on the road for only about two and a half hours, including a rest break.

Dennis said the company that has been operating in the province since 2007 must provide a safety plan to the Transportation Ministry by Feb. 28.

He said it must ensure drivers are staying within the allowed hours of service and conducting daily pre-trip inspections of buses and record whether brakes are adjusted properly and lights, tires and wheel nuts, for example, are in safe working order.

"If we are satisfied that they have plans in place and they are safe to go back into operation they will, and then we will continue to monitor them very closely."

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