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Houston bus owner indicted in crash that killed 17

The owner of a Houston-based motor coach company has been indicted on
federal charges from a 2008 bus crash in North Texas that killed 17
people en route to a religious gathering.

                       

Angel De La Torre, owner of Angel Tours, is accused of making false
statements on federal forms and other charges prior to the Aug. 8, 2008,
crash near Sherman.

 

                       

The indictment was unsealed Wednesday when De La Torre, 64, made his initial appearance in federal court.

                       

Also indicted in the crash was Carlos Ortuno, 52, an employee of the company.

                       

"I wanted these men held accountable for what they did. I'm glad to
see they're finally having their day of reckoning," said Yen-Chi Le,
whose mother, Catherine Tuong So Lam, was killed in the crash.

                       

Officials with Angel Tours could not be reached for comment later
Wednesday. The listed telephone number for the company has been
disconnected.

                       

The 55 passengers on the bus were part of a group making an annual
trip from Houston to Carthage, Mo., that drew thousands of Vietnamese
Catholics from throughout the United States.

                       

In addition to those who died, 38 bus passengers were injured.

                       

According to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation,
the bus had completed about 309 miles of the 600-mile-long trip when the
driver lost control when a tire blew out.

                                   

The bus plunged through a bridge railing, dropping about 8 feet down an embankment before coming to rest on its right side.

                       

Federal prosecutors said the bus should not have been operating at the time because of safety concerns.

                       

According to the indictment, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration conducted an inspection in May 2008 - about three months
before the fatal crash.

                       

The inspectors found several violations and issued orders for Angel Tours to end all interstate transportation in June 2008.

                       

De La Torre is charged with four counts of making false statements,
one count of conspiracy to make false statements and one count of
operating a commercial vehicle after being placed out of service.

                       

Ortuno is charged with two counts of making false statements and one
count of conspiracy to make false statements, the U.S. Attorney's Office
in Houston said.

                       

If convicted, the two men face a punishment of up to five years in
federal prison and a $250,000 on each charge of making a false statement
or conspiracy.

                       

De La Torre faces a one-year prison term and $25,000 fine if
convicted for operating the bus after it was ordered out-of-service.

                       

Le said she had almost given up hope for any criminal charges against
the officials since the crash. "It's been almost five years. I didn't
think they were going to do anything more."

                       

Le plans to get in contact with federal prosecutors and intends to closely follow the legal proceedings.

                       

"This really changed our lives," she said. "It could bring some peace and closure for us."

Source: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Houston-bus-owner-indicted-in-crash-that-killed-17-4611167.php?t=5849e158cb

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