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Deadly Sherman Bus Crash

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SHERMAN (CBS 11 NEWS / AP) ― According to federal records, the bus that wrecked in an accident and killed 15 members of a Houston church was not licensed to operate.

The bus was operated by Iguala BusMex Incorporated of Houston, according to licensing information on the vehicle. Records show that the company has an application pending with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration but has not been approved for operation. It also does not yet have insurance, which is required for operation.

The charter bus was carrying a Vietnamese Catholic group to an annual pilgrimage early Friday when it slammed onto its side and then skidded off U.S. 75, killing 15 people and injuring nearly 50 others, authorities said.

The company sought certification from the agency June 26, just weeks after it filed incorporation papers with the Texas Secretary of State.

The company's owner and address is the same as another bus company, Angel Tours, that was forced by the FMCSA to take its vehicles out of interstate service June 23 as a result of an unsatisfactory compliance review in May.

That review cites three factors as the reasons the company failed: the qualifications of its drivers, its drug and alcohol program and its inspection, repair and maintenance.

Debbie Hersman with the National Transportation Safety Board held a news conference at DFW Airport on Friday night. She said that the crash was caused by a blown front tire. The tire had bee re-capped, a process meant to extend the life of the tire.

However, re-capping a front tire is against the law. If the tire loses air, the bus could lose control. Only rear tires can be re-capped because there are more tires in the rear. In the event of air loss, other tires can pick up the slack.

Hersman also stated that the 52-year-old bus driver had a commercial license, but his medical certification required by the government had expired.

In a statement released late Friday afternoon, FMCSA Administrator John H. Hill had strong words for Iguala BusMex and Angel Tours. About the companies, Hill said, "It is important to note that neither of these domestic entities is authorized to operate as a U.S. passenger carrier in interstate commerce at this time."

Hill also confirmed the information on the agency's website showing Iguala BusMex's as-yet-unapproved application to operate.

In the statement, Hill went on to say, "We have requested law enforcement agencies to be alert for any buses being operated by Angel Tours or Iguala Busmex, since they are not authorized to operate legally. If found on the road, we want law enforcement to immediately stop and place the vehicles Out-of-Service."

Outside a Houston building at the address of both companies, a weathered plywood sign bore the name "Angel Tours." A man inside declined to identify himself and told The Associated Press he had no comment when asked if he was affiliated with the company or if it owned the bus involved in the crash.
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