Their suit for
wrongful death and negligence was filed Monday in Monterey County Superior Court, almost
two months after the April 28 crash that left four tourists and the California
driver dead and dozens of people injured. The lawsuit does not ask for
any punitive damages.
Among the defendants are Orion Pacific, the Brea charter bus company that
provided transportation for the French tour groups, and the estate of
the bus's 69-year-old driver, John Egnew, who was among those killed
in the crash.
Plaintiffs include family members of two tourists who died in the crash.
The heirs of the other two passengers who died will likely be added to
the suit, said San Francisco attorney Jean-Yves Lendormy.
The suit names several French and Canadian travel and tour firms that arranged
the 14-day "Trip to the Great American West" tour that came
to a tragic end when the bus went out of control on the Front Street highway
overpass in the middle of the afternoon.
The California Highway Patrol said the likely cause of the crash was driver
error, when Egnew failed to negotiate a curve on the overpass and slammed
into a guardrail.
The bus was carrying 34 tourists, a Canadian tour guide and the driver.
Several of the dead were thrown from the bus to the ground below. Several
injured passengers spent substantial time in California after the accident,
receiving medical care and waiting for arrangements to return home.
Lendormy, who is the attorney for the French Consulate in San Francisco,
said all of the survivors have returned to France. Some are in hospitals
there because of their injuries. Some younger passengers are back in school.
Others are not so fortunate. One victim lost his arm, he said.
"Many were grievously injured with serious orthopedic and neurological
injuries," the suit said. "All of the surviving passengers are
marked for life in their bodies and in their souls by this catastrophic
The tour was organized by Capitales Tour, a large French tour operator
that worked with a Canadian company, Contact Amerique, which specializes
in international tours, according to the suit.
Among its worldwide tour packages, Capitales Tour put together 35 packages
in California this year, the suit says.
The suit accuses the tour organizers of failing to perform due diligence
to ensure the safety of the tour group. The companies should have known
more about Egnew and demanded a different driver, the suit says.
"Due diligence by any one of them would have disclosed that 69-year-old
John Egnew had previously caused a serious accident while driving an Orion
Pacific bus and did not possess sufficient skills and stamina to drive
the ... bus over the 2000-mile trip," the suit said.
A woman at Orion Pacific said the company didn't have a comment.
Egnew previously was involved in a 2005 bus accident in Las Vegas when
his coach hit a 71-year-old woman as she was crossing a street with her
husband. Egnew admitted to police that he hadn't seen the woman and
later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor traffic violation.
The woman's lawyer said she suffered brain injuries and a broken pelvis
and a $750,000 settlement was reached last year with Orion Pacific's
parent company, Weeks Enterprises Inc.
The French tourists' suit doesn't name any public agencies.
"There is nothing against the good state of California," Lendormy said.
Lendormy said the suit shouldn't be viewed as any kind of negative
statement about the emergency response, medical care and hospitality that
the crash victims received.
"They are grateful for how they were treated after the accident by
care providers, hospital nurses and people from the community," he said.
He noted that community members collected books in French, clothing and
other personal items for survivors. Schoolchildren drew greeting cards for them.
"Some of the stories almost want to make you cry," Lendormy said.
Source: Monterey County Herald
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