Mexican Bus Crash Victims’ Families Sue

May 18, 2009

The families of two South Texas middle school teachers who were among 11 people killed in Mexico when their bus was hit by a drunken driver’s tractor-trailer have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the tour and bus companies.

The suit against Monterrey-based Grupo Senda Autotransporte and McAllen-based Viva Mexico Tours claims the companies failed to provide safe transportation and subjected passengers to “an unusual risk of injury.”

Viva Mexico Tours hired the Grupo Senda bus.

The suit was filed on behalf of Ana Maria Bujanos’ and Rebecca Ellen Pemelton’s surviving heirs. The families seek damages for physical pain, suffering and mental anguish, and want reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages.

Lawyer Robert Bujanos, a cousin of Ana Maria Bujanos, said the tour company broke its promise to repay surviving family members for costs associated with funeral and medical expenses.

“Those promises were just press releases that sounded good for them,” he said in The Monitor of McAllen. “But these family members have had to struggle to pay bills while trying to come to terms with what happened.”

Jose Juan Gonzalez, a spokesman for the bus company, disputed Bujanos’ comments, saying Grupo Senda made good on its pledge. The company has said it wasn’t at fault but agreed to cover the costs because the driver of the semitrailer that collided with the bus was uninsured.

“We paid for everyone,” said Gonzalez, who also works in the Grupo Senda finance department. “I saw the checks myself.”

He declined to comment on the suit itself.

Brownsville middle school teachers Ana Maria Bujanos, 56, and Pemelton, 68, were on a spring break tour of northern Mexico in March when a drunken driver lost control of his tractor-trailer and slammed into the bus carrying Americans and Canadians.

Eleven people, including the two teachers and the bus driver, died on the stretch of highway near Saltillo, Mexico. Sixteen others were injured.

The passengers were on the first day of four-day excursion to the Mexican cities of Zacatecas and Real de Catorce.

Mexican authorities have said the truck driver, Julio Cesar Rodriguez Garcia of Saltillo, was intoxicated and would face manslaughter charges.

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