Coq. bus company sued for fatal crash

The Oregon State bus crash on Dec. 30 that killed nine people - OREGON STATE POLICE
The Oregon State bus crash on Dec. 30 that killed nine people
— image credit: OREGON STATE POLICE

A Coquitlam company involved in a bus crash in Oregon that killed nine people and injured 38 is being sued by the guardian of two of its young passengers.

According to the complaint for personal injuries and damages, filed on Monday in Pierce County (Wash.) superior court, Kyoung-Sen Kang is claiming negligence by Mi Joo Tour and Travel Ltd., which is based on North Road in Coquitlam.

None of the claims contained in the statement have been proven in court.

The legal statement states Jong-Hyun Chae, 16, and Seong-Jun An, 15, who are South Korean citizens living with Kang and attending high school in Tacoma, boarded the bus on Dec. 22, 2012, in Federal Way for a nine-day package tour of western U.S.A.

The bus was driven by Mi Joo Tour operator Haeng-Kyu Hwang, 54, whose driving time averaged 12 to 14 hours a day, according to the statement.

On the last day of the tour, on Dec. 30, the bus left Boise, Idaho, and travelled about 203 miles in three hours when it crashed at Emigrant Hill on Interstate 84, between La Grande and Pendleton, Ore. Road conditions were treacherous and there were many signs warning drivers, the statement reads.

"At the time of the accident, not only was the tour bus descending down a long and winding road but the weather was freezing," the complaint reads. "There were patches of snow and ice upon the roadway and fog in places. Yet driver Hwang did not adequately slow the bus to a safe speed given the hazardous conditions present.

"As a result, in the vicinity of mile marker 227 on I-84, driver Hwang lost control of the tour bus as it began to slide erratically from side to side, eventually colliding with a guardrail and then spinning 360 degrees to bust through the guardrail and then careen down a steep embankment, flipping over end-to-end as it crashed down the near cliff."

Chae was knocked unconscious and An fainted; both boys, who were sitting at the back of the bus, later assisted injured passengers, reads the statement filed by the Herrmann Scholbe law firm of Tacoma.

The statement alleges Hwang "was negligent in that during the trip he exceeded the maximum driving time for passenger-carrying vehicles." As well, it claims Hwang was "further negligent by ignoring multiple warnings concerning dangerous conditions upon the roadway and failing to reduce to a safe speed."

Further, it alleges Mi Joo tour was actively negligent in that "it knowingly caused or permitted driver Hwang to violate the requirements of the maximum driving time" and that it is "vicariously liable for the acts of negligence of its employee driver."

No one from the Coquitlam company was available when contacted by The Tri-City News on Tuesday; however, its phone message states the following: "Mi Joo Tours expresses its deepest sympathy and condolences to those impacted by the tragic events recently occurring in Pendleton, Oregon, U.S.A.

"Due to these events, Mi Joo Tours is temporarily closed. We are fully co-operating with those authorities investigating the accident and is actively attempting to assist with those affected by this incident, in particular the injured passengers and their families.

"Any persons directly impacted by the accident are advised to contact 1-800-910-4222, which is ICBC call centre."

Mi Joo Tour and Travel has not filed a response in court to the lawsuit.

Oregon State Police has released the names of eight victims: Youmin Kim, 11, of South Korea; Oun Hong Jung, 67, of South Korea and his wife, Joong Wha Kim, 63; Dale William Osborn, 57, of Spanaway, Wash.; Chun Ho Bahn, 63, of Bothell, Wash; Ae Ja Kim, 61, of South Korea; Yong Ho Lee, 75, of Lynnwood, Wash.; and Seokmin Moon, 55, of Maple Ridge.


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