State News

Jul 4, 2013 9:48 AM

Texas Bus Crash Leads to Criminal Investigation, Lawsuits

DALLAS (AP) - A deadly casino bus crash in North Texas has prompted more than a dozen lawsuits as well as a criminal probe that could result in the driver facing criminal charges.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has asked that the Dallas County district attorney's office review the April 11 crash, which left three people dead and more than 40 injured.

The criminal inquiry comes as at least 13 lawsuits in Dallas and Tarrant counties allege negligence on the part of the bus company, Cardinal Coach Line Inc. of Mansfield, and the driver, Loyd Rieve.

DPS spokesman Sgt. Lonny Haschel said Wednesday the agency turned over its accident file to the DA's office last Friday.

Haschel said the material provided to the DA supports the preliminary crash report, made public 11 days after the accident, faulting Rieve. However, the DPS did not urge the DA to seek a particular criminal charge, he said.

"We turn it over to them and put it in their court," Haschel said. "We don't recommend anything."

Debbie Denmon, the spokeswoman for Dallas County DA Craig Watkins, said the case would be turned over to a grand jury. She declined to provide further details.

The accident occurred on an Irving highway as a group of seniors was leaving the Dallas area to travel to an Oklahoma casino. The preliminary report faulted Rieve for losing control of the bus, causing it to veer off the roadway, strike a concrete barrier and land on its side.

The dead passengers were 82-year-old Alice Stanley, 69-year-old Paula Hahn and 81-year-old Sue Taylor, the trip's organizer, known as "Casino Sue."

Attorneys representing Rieve and Cardinal Coach Line did not respond to phone messages from The Associated Press Wednesday.

According to the preliminary DPS report, Rieve, 65, told authorities he may have blacked out in the moments before the crash. Investigators concluded there was nothing mechanically wrong with the bus, the report said.

Haschel said Wednesday that, after finishing the preliminary report, investigators continued to look at the condition of the bus and other factors. Their additional inquiry gave them no reason to amend the initial finding, he said.

"They looked at the bus, the roadway, company witnesses," Haschel said. "Nothing changed."

A bus Rieve was driving in 1998 struck and killed a man who was rendering aid at an accident scene near Dallas.

In that case, a Dallas County grand jury declined to indict Rieve on a charge of negligent homicide, but he and his employer, Central West Motor Stages of Grand Prairie, still faced two lawsuits claiming they were negligent.

One of the lawsuits, filed by the family of the man who was killed, resulted in a jury finding Central West negligent for employing Rieve. However, the jury awarded no damages, deciding that the Samaritan, 22-year-old Chad Rosell of Detroit Lakes, Minn., was largely at fault.

Rieve's wife, Gail, told the AP in April that the bus struck Rosell because he jumped onto the road and the vehicle's brakes were faulty.

"Loyd did everything he could to save those people on the bus and that young man," she said.

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