One Fatal Bus Crash Investigation Resolved – and a Nightclub’s Name Cleared

One Fatal Bus Crash Investigation Resolved - and a Nightclub's Name Cleared The imminent resolution of a long contested Greyhound bus accident case has left many mulling the consequences of irresponsible and negligent driving. The Associated Press reports that a massive traffic accident on July 22, 2010, has finally found the liable party for the resultant six deaths.

Eighteen-year-old Sylvia Garay was reportedly intoxicated, with a blood alcohol level of .11, when she drove her SUV into a concrete barrier on Highway 99 around 2 a.m. Her SUV overturned and was hit by an oncoming Greyhound bus, according to the news report.

On board the Greyhound were 31 passengers traveling to Sacramento from Los Angeles, the news outlet reports. The bus then skidded into a concrete divider and careened down an embankment, slamming into a eucalyptus tree. Three bus passengers were killed, along with Garay and her two passengers.

The case was a source of great controversy, as investigators have tried to seek out the party responsible for allowing Garay to become intoxicated. Michelle Cole, Garay’s friend, is said to have helped Garay purchase vodka at a liquor store using her California ID card. She was reportedly in full knowledge that she was purchasing alcohol for underage friends.

The liquor store that sold the alcohol to Cole hasn’t faced charges, but Cole has, charged with a misdemeanor by the Fresno County District Attorney, Elizabeth Egan after a California Highway Patrol (CHP) report put full blame on her. She’s been charged with buying alcoholic drinks for an underage individual, and her act allegedly resulted in death. If convicted, she faces a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Her arraignment is on August 23rd, the new source reports.

However Cole’s lawyer felt the allegations were unnecessary as Cole claims she was aware of “the role she played in the crash and she is remorseful in that regard. She’s being made a public face of this accident and people are wanting to blame her for it. I think that it’s not true and it’s not a fair thing to say. This was a tragic event in her life. The three occupants of the SUV were very good friends of hers and she has been grieving tremendously.”

In a further recent development of the case, a night club in Fresno, the Starline, has been cleared of connections to the deadly bus accident, as the DA’s office stated it will not file any criminal charges, according to KMPH.com. After the crash, the Starline was forced to shut down its “18-and-over” night as investigations took place. Owner Steve Lipari, however, notes that the accusations nearly ruined his business as the allegations were sorted.

The investigators determined that Garay and friends did not, in fact, purchase alcohol at the Starline, as Cole is targeted as the main provider of alcohol to the minors in the Highway Patrol’s final report. Lipari has lost an alleged $80,000 as a result of shutting down the lucrative night, and awaits the CHP’s crash report. The case is still ongoing, according to the news outlet.

Despite this grim case, California has had improvement in its fatal crash statistics, a trend that has continued over five years. The state’s Office of Traffic Safety reports that the state had 2,715 traffic accident-related fatalities in 2010, which is a drop from 4,333 in 2005, the Fresno Bee reports. In 2009, 3,076 people were killed in traffic collisions in California.

Speaking to the Fresno Bee, head of the OTS, Chris Murphy, said that “California and its people can be proud.” In particular, heavier punishment for drunk driving cases have been implemented, and more efforts are to be put in place to reduce drugged and distracted driving practices.