"Driver inattention" blamed for Nevada bus crash

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The Independent US

It was billed as "The Western Wonders Tour" - a holiday to remember for John and Audrey Brown of Scotland and dozens of other British tourists.

It was billed as "The Western Wonders Tour" - a holiday to remember for John and Audrey Brown of Scotland and dozens of other British tourists.

But it all came to a screeching halt in the middle of Nevada's high desert when a tour bus went off the road, zigzagged and flipped on its side, injuring all 41 on board, several seriously.

"It's a nightmare," John Brown, 47, told reporters Friday at Washoe Medical Center in Reno, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of the crash site near Tonopah, Nevada.

Twenty-two people remained hospitalized Friday, including Brown's wife, 44, who was in satisfactory condition with face and shoulder injuries after being dragged along the ground as the bus slid 200 feet (60 meters) on its side.

"I still have it in my mind. I can see it, smell it," said fellow passenger Jim Cutler, 64, of Edmonton, England, who remained hospitalized in Las Vegas on Friday.

"The sounds of the gravel on the road, glass breaking, the smell, it was just like burning," said Cutler, who discussed the crash Friday night while seated in a wheelchair, his arms heavily bandaged. Doctors listed his condition as fair.

He and his wife, Valerie, were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. She was less seriously injured and was able to rejoin him in Las Vegas on Friday after being released from a Reno hospital.

The Nevada Highway Patrol blamed Thursday's crash on "driver inattention."

A 72-year-old woman from Derby, England, lost both her arms in the crash. She and five others who were seriously injured were the first airlifted to hospitals.

"We were looking forward to the trip on to Hawaii. But I only care that we're not dead. We're alive," John Brown said.

British Consul-General Paul Dimond visited the Las Vegas patients Friday.

"Obviously this crash has shocked us all. We are deeply saddened," Dimond said.

Hospital officials said Friday that three people remained in serious condition and 11 satisfactory in Reno, and two serious and six in fair condition in Las Vegas.

They had flown from London to San Francisco, where they started the bus leg of their tour, traveling to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. They were headed north again Thursday for Mammoth Lakes, California, when the bus went off U.S. 6, a two-lane road in remote central Nevada.

The driver overcorrected to the left, and the bus traveled across both lanes and went off the left side of the road. The driver again overcorrected, and the bus overturned and slid for about 200 feet (60 meters) on its side.

"People were flopping around all over each other inside the bus. No one was ejected, but all the windows on one side were smashed open," Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Richard James said.

James said an investigation was continuing but no drugs or alcohol were involved and speed was not believed to be a factor either. "We're pretty much focusing on driver error," he said.

John Brown, of Dunfermline, Scotland, was making his first trip to the United States. He said he and his wife were sitting on the right side in the back of the bus.

"The window was on the ground and passengers were being dragged physically along the side, which resulted in horrific injuries," Brown said.

"I never thought I was really going to be injured. At that point, it was something like in a carnival, a Walt Disney ride where you go up and down but you survive," he said.

The driver, Lotfali Rankouh, 54, of Los Angeles, suffered minor injuries.

The bus was registered to California Sun Lines Inc. in Chatsworth, California. Reza Olandj of the firm said Rankouh "has a perfect record."