Overwork Blamed for Fatal Oregon Bus Crash

     SEATTLE (CN) – The tour company whose bus wreck killed nine people and injured 39 in a Dec. 30 crash in Oregon forced their weary driver to work “far in excess of the maximum hours” permitted by law, an injured woman claims in court.
     Eun Sook Uhm and her husband sued Mi Joo Tour & Travel; Edward Kang and his wife, the married couple who own it; and the driver, in Federal Court.
     Uhm claims that Kang and Mi Joo forced their driver, Haeng-Kyu Hwang, “to drive far in excess of the maximum hours of service permitted by the FMCSRs [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations].”
     The crash came on the last day of a 9-day tour, on an icy road on Interstate 84 near Pendleton, Ore., when the bus hit a guardrail and plunged down an embankment.
     Eun Sook Uhm suffered broken bones and other injuries. A friend died in the accident and Uhm comforted her “as she died in the wreckage of the bus,” according to the complaint.
     Uhm was still hospitalized when the complaint was filed this week.
     Uhm says she and her friends booked the 9-day trip with Mi Joo Tour & Travel, a British Columbia-based company, for a tour of the Western United States, in response to an ad in a Korean language newspaper.
     “Throughout the nine-day bus tour, including on Dec. 30, 2012, defendant Mi Joo had required defendant Hwang to drive far in excess of the maximum hours of service permitted by the FMCSRs [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration]. Throughout the nine-day bus tour, including on December 30, 2012, defendant Mi Joo had required defendant Hwang to drive at speeds in excess of posted maximum speed limits and at speeds in excess of what was reasonable and prudent for the then road and weather conditions,” according to the complaint.
     Uhm says Hwang was tired and speeding when the crash came, and he ignored a sign warning of “hazardous winter driving conditions.”
     “The section of roadway where the bus crashed is known to be dangerous. Yet, defendant Haeng-Kyu Hwang failed to take precautions, ignored all warnings and operated the bus at unsafe speeds,” the complaint states.
     “Defendant Haeng-Kyu Hwang lost control of the bus and the bus slid erratically, colliding with the barrier dividing the bus and its passengers from traffic coming in the opposing direction. The bus then spun approximately 180 degrees, hit a guardrail on the side of the interstate highway, and then plummeted down a steep cliff-like embankment, rolling and flipping.”
     Uhm says she was “violently thrown around,” broke several bones and suffered permanent injuries.
     “After the bus came to rest at the bottom of the cliff-like embankment, Plaintiff Eun Sook Uhm could see the devastation caused by the bus crash. Surviving passengers were crying for help and dying passengers were among the survivors. Plaintiff Eun Sook Uhm was near her friend, Yong Ho Lee, on the bus and comforted Yong Ho Lee as she died in the wreckage of the bus, according to the complaint.
     Uhm and her husband, Do Sung Uhm, claim the tour operator “knew, or should have known, that Haeng-Kyu Hwang would be fatigued and would drive at unsafe speeds to meet the demanding tour schedule.”
     They seek damages for negligence, common carrier negligence, negligent supervision and retention, and emotional distress.
     They are represented by Scott Breneman with Ricci Grube Breneman.

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