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Driver crosses intersection too soon, trooper says

Brian Cuaron

By Brian Cuaron
May 12, 2011 at 12:12 a.m.

Guadalupe Ruiz, the driver of a Valley Transit Greyhound bus, left, talks to injured passengers after a pickup pulled out in front of the bus on U.S. Highway 77, forcing it to swerve into the median and hit a metal pole near Speedy Stop, formerly known as Chubby's, Wednesday around 9 p.m. One passenger was killed in the accident and 21 were injured.

The driver of a pickup involved in Wednesday's fatal bus accident should've waited longer before crossing a highway, an official said.

"The law says you have to remain stopped until it is safe to proceed, which he did not," said Trooper Gerald Bryant.

He added the investigation showed no indication that alcohol was involved.

Larry Marceaux, 30, with passenger John Courmier, 41, both of Vinton, La., were hauling a Chevrolet Silverado truck on the back of a blue Chevrolet S-10 truck.

Marceaux had left a nearby restaurant about 9 p.m. as he headed east on Fleming Prairie Road when he came to a stop sign and a flashing red light at U.S. Highway 77.

At the same an 18-wheeler going south on U.S. 77 made a right turn onto Fleming Prairie Road from the outside lane. Behind it a Valley Transit Greyhound bus was headed south on the inside lane.

Marceaux and the bus driver probably didn't see each other because the 18-wheeler blocked their line of sight, Bryant said.

"It's where the visibility could've been blocked both ways," Bryant said.

Marceaux told investigators that he thought it was OK to cross the southbound lanes when he saw the 18-wheeler turning onto Fleming Prairie Road.

Once the bus came into sight, however, Courmier started yelling "Bus, bus, bus," Trooper James Vinson said.

However, the bus driver had the right-of-way. Marceaux was given a ticket for failing to yield the right-of-way, Vinson said.

Vinson said Marceaux had stopped when he came to the intersection.

As a result of the impact, bus driver Guadalupe Ruiz, who has worked for Valley Transit since 1995, veered left onto the median and hit a utility pole.

Passenger Juanita Lopez-Perez of Matamoros, Mexico, was pronounced dead by Justice of the Peace Henry Welfel as she was pinned inside the bus. Her body was taken to Sunset Mortuary.

Twenty-one of the 25 passengers were transported to area hospitals. Seventeen were later released, while three remained in DeTar Hospital Navarro and one in Citizens Medical Center.

Citizens' spokeswoman Shannon Spree said the patient at Citizens was expected to be released Thursday.

She described most of the injuries to the 13 victims taken to Citizens as bumps and scratches from flying glass.

Vinson said he is continuing his investigation of the crash.

Bryant said the information will be given to the district attorney's office after the investigation to see whether more charges will be filed.

One of the passengers released from DeTar Hospital said she was still dealing with the emotional effects of the crash.

"Right now I'm still in shock. I can't believe this accident the way it was and that we're still all alive," Esperanza De Los Santos said.



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