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Survivor sues over fatal 2018 bus crash in New Mexico

Dillon MullanMay 27, 2019

A Colorado man is suing trucking and passenger bus firms and drivers involved in a four-vehicle sequence of collisions on Interstate 25 last summer, accusing them of negligence that led to the death of his wife.

Ramon Grajeda-Beltran was married to Olga Hernandez-Beltran for over 38 years when she was killed in the crash near Algodones in the early hours of July 15, according to his lawsuit filed Wednesday in state District Court in Santa Fe.

The couple were passengers on a commercial bus traveling from Denver to El Paso that overturned after colliding with a car and then was struck by a semitrailer.

Hernandez-Beltran was one of three women killed in the crash. About two dozen bus passengers were injured, including Grajeda-Beltran.

The lawsuit says Truong Phuong of Albuquerque started the deadly chain reaction of collisions when he struck the rear of a pickup on southbound I-25 and then stopped his car in a lane of traffic.

The southbound bus, driven by Quirina Gabriel of Valencia County, collided with Phuong’s car, swerved into the median, and struck a cable barrier, the suit says. The bus overturned and came to a rest in a northbound lane of I-25, where a truck driven by John Tapia for Northland Trucking crashed into it.

Grajeda-Beltran’s lawsuit names as defendants Phuong, Gabriel and Tapia; bus firm El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express Inc.; El Paso-LA’s parent company, Texas-based Milo Motorcoaches; El Paso-LA owner James Jerry Rosenbaum of El Paso; bus manufacturer Motor Coach Industries; and Northland Trucking.

While the suit primarily accuses the drivers of negligence, it also alleges a lack of seat belts in the passenger bus as a contributing factor in Hernandez-Beltran’s death and her husband’s severe injuries.

El Paso-LA Limousine previously has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit involving a passenger who was fatally injured by a lack of seat belts, the suit says. It alleges deficiencies and defects in the production, manufacture and maintenance of the bus are to blame in the fatal crash.

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