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June 2, 2014

NTTA sues bus company over fatal crash

NTTA is seeking damages for repairs it had to make to Texas 161.

The North Texas Tollway Authority is suing Cardinal Coach Line and a driver for damages related to a crash in April 2013 that killed three senior citizens headed to an Oklahoma casino and shut down the President George Bush Turnpike for several hours.

The suit, filed last month in civil court in Dallas County, alleges that the Mansfield-based charter bus company and driver Loyd Rieve were negligent, and the tollway authority is seeking $100,000 in damages for repairs made to Texas 161, a damaged barrier and other losses.

Cardinal Coach Line also filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy April 16 this year in a Fort Worth federal court.

Tollway authority spokesman Michael Rey said the agency spent money on road repairs and cleaning up hazardous materials spilled from the charter bus. Rey declined to say how much revenue was lost from uncollected toll fees while the turnpike was closed.

“We first contacted their insurance company with a claim but it wasn’t satisfied. We went to court for our rights,” Rey said.

Asked if the tollway authority expected to receive $100,000 from the bankrupt company, Rey declined to comment.

Rey said it is fairly common for the tollway authority to collect damages from “responsible parties” when there is a loss of revenue.

“We are a tollway, not a freeway,” Rey said. “We don’t collect tax dollars. We sell bonds that are repaid with toll fees.”

Matt Biran, the agent listed for Cardinal Coach Line, could not be reached for comment, and a person who answered a phone listed for the company hung up on a Star-Telegram reporter. The company did not answer email messages seeking comment.

Rieve also could not be reached for comment.

On April 11, 2013, a group of senior citizens from the Metroplex was headed to a day of fun at the Choctaw Casino in Durant, but as the bus traveled through Irving in the northbound lane of the turnpike, the driver suddenly struck the “right attenuators,” or barrels, causing the bus to cross all lanes of traffic before hitting a concrete wall. The bus landed on its right side, and Rieve and two passengers were ejected.

Three people died, and 40 passengers were injured.

A report from the Texas Department of Public Safety released shortly after the crash said Rieve could have blacked out before the crash.

According to the lawsuit, the northbound lanes of the George Bush Turnpike were shut down for eight hours and 14 minutes, and the southbound lanes were closed for three hours and 31 minutes.

The suit alleges that Rieve did not “keep a proper lookout,” failed to control his speed and failed to apply the brakes before the collision.

Cardinal is also accused of negligence for failing to properly hire and supervise Rieve.

The bus company also faces three lawsuits filed by passengers who were injured in the crash as well as the family of Alice Stanley, who died several days after the collision.

This article includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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