SHERMAN, Texas - A bus run by the same company linked to a deadly Texas crash and being used by pilgrims heading to the same festival as the 17 victims failed an inspection and was pulled out of service, authorities said Sunday.
The bus was pulled from operation in Carthage, Mo., where members of three Vietnamese Catholic congregations in Houston were headed when their bus blew a tire and skidded off the highway, said Robert Accetta, the leader of the National Transportation Safety Board team investigating the crash.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered Iguala BusMex and Angel Tours Inc. to cease commercial operations Sunday, finding that the companies posed an "imminent hazard." A second order issued to Angel De La Torre, owner and president of the Houston-based companies, finds that his "activities in connection with motor carrier operations pose an 'imminent hazard' to the public."
The bus inspected in Carthage was registered to Iguala Busmex, said NTSB spokeswoman Debbie Hersman.
The voice-mail system for Angel Tours was full Sunday and not accepting new messages.
Pilgrims returning from the Missouri festival stopped at the accident site Sunday, erecting a memorial and saying prayers.
"I think that God used this tragedy to strengthen our faith. I truly believe that," said Hoang Vu, of Frisco. He stopped at the site with his wife and son to offer prayers with other mourners.
The bus in the Texas crash blew a tire and smashed into a guardrail early Friday at Sherman near the Oklahoma border, killing 12 people at the scene and five others who died at hospitals.
Authorities have also released the driving record of the bus driver, 52-year-old Barrett Wayne Broussard, who remained in critical condition Sunday. Since 2001, he has been cited by police three times — once for driving while intoxicated and twice for speeding.
His license was suspended for nearly two months in 2001 as the result of the DWI conviction in Harris County, Hersman said. His speeding violations came in 2007 and 2004. Broussard has also failed roadside inspections twice in the last year, both times resulting in his vehicle being taken out of service for driver logbook violations.
The first failed inspection came May 2, 2007, when Broussard was driving for All State Coaches. In addition to driver logbook violations, inspectors also discovered he did not have a valid or current medical certificate. The second failed inspection came Aug. 6, 2007, when Broussard was driving for Angel Tours.
Authorities await results of blood testing done on Broussard after the crash. A call by The Associated Press to Broussard's home was not answered Sunday.
The NTSB's Accetta said officials were still fact-finding. An investigator will travel to Houston with the Motor Carrier Safety Administration to find information about Iguala BusMex and Angel Tours.
Lt. Bob Fair of the Sherman Police Department said his agency is finishing inspections of the bus. He declined to comment on whether any criminal charges would be filed.
Authorities said the right front tire, which blew out, had been retreaded in violation of safety standards.
The bus sat in the city impound lot Sunday, a shell of itself. The right-side emergency windows were broken. Overhead bins appeared to be collapsed. The front right corner of the bus was smashed — and all the wheels had been removed.
At the accident site Sunday, where investigators still worked, a woman's dress shoe and a white tennis shoe lay in the grass beside the railing. Damaged pieces of guardrail were scattered about in a creek, and broken glass sparkled amid charred grass.
Peter Tran, a close friend of Thuong Tath, who suffered a cracked neck bone and lost his wife during the accident, said he was saddened to find remnants of the group's crash. He said he saw packets of longan, a traditional Vietnamese fruit, and yellow sweet rice. He said he also found a jug of thit kho, or roasted pork, and moved it to a place he hoped emergency crews would not find.
"It's been really, really sad," Tran said. "It's a terrible time. I cried, but everyone cries."
At the Vietnamese Martyr Church in Houston, flowers at the foot of the pulpit surrounded portraits of five victims who were regular attendees. Candles flickered before them during Sunday services.
The crash in Sherman is among the nation's deadliest. In 2005, 23 people were killed near Dallas when a bus carrying nursing home residents away from Hurricane Rita caught fire.
Ana Ley reported from Houston. Associated Press writers Jeff Carlton and Matt Curry in Dallas contributed to this report.