TUCSON (CN) – Families of two people who died in a freeway rollover in March say the California-based bus company could not legally carry passengers in Arizona and had “for many years been operating a passenger bus business without legal authority.”
The families of Maria de Refugio Garcia de Gonzalez and Eusebia Valerio Rios, two of six passengers killed in the March 5 rollover on I-10 in Cochise County, sued Tierra Santa bus company for wrongful death and racketeering in Federal Court.
They also sued the company’s owner, Cayetano Martinez, of Los Angeles, and bus driver Alfonso Alvarado, of Mexico.
The families claim Martinez falsified a certificate of insurance and ignored several orders from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to cease and desist interstate transportation.
“Over the past several years, Martinez has repeatedly attempted to obtain operating authority from FMCSA under different business names and entities,” the lawsuit claims. “FMCSA has shut these operations down, revoking any operating authority registrations that it issued, suspending registration, and imposing civil penalties against Martinez and/or his entities for violations of FMCSA regulations. Each time FMCSA has shut down one operation, Martinez has reincarnated himself as a new carrier and tried again. Martinez has shown a persistency and determination to continue unlawfully operating under new entities and businesses.”
The families say, “The defendants acted with an evil mind as defined by Arizona law entitling the plaintiffs to punitive or exemplary damages.”
Fifteen plaintiffs seek punitive damages and burial and funeral costs. They are represented by William Risner with Risner & Graham.
Federal officials recently announced a crackdown on unlicensed bus companied that offer shuttle services for poor people along the border.