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article imageRegulators had not inspected San Francisco tour bus that crashed

By Nathan Salant     Nov 18, 2015 in Technology
San Francisco - The sightseeing bus that apparently lost its brakes and careened out of control for two blocks in San Francisco's popular Union Square shopping district last week was not registered nor inspected as required by California law.
Some 20 people were injured when the open-air, double-deck bus sped down Post Street on Nov. 13 and struck a bicycle and parked cars before being stopped by scaffolding outside an under-construction Apple Computer store at Stockton Street.
Five of the injured were hospitalized Monday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Officials with the California Public Utilities Commission said Monday that the vehicle, operated by City Sightseeing Worldwide Ltd. of Warwickshire, U.K., was not listed in company documents and had not been inspected by regulators before being put into service.
“We weren’t aware of the vehicle until now,” CPUC spokesman Christopher Chow told the newspaper.
“City Sightseeing had not notified us that they had added that bus to their operation,” he said.
California Highway Patrol supervisor Monica Christopher said her agency's Motor Carrier Safety Unit, which is in charge of inspecting tour buses, had not had the chance to inpsect the 2000 Orion motorcoach involved in the accident.
“We have been asked by (San Francisco police) to take a look at this vehicle,” Christopher said, adding that California law requires coach operators to notify the CHP within 10 days of putting a vehicle into service but that was not done in this case.
Christopher also said the CPUC had inspected City Sightseeing's San Francisco operation in September and rated it satisfactory.
A new investigation involving the CHP, CPUC and San Francisco police is underway, she said.
City Sightseeing operates bus tours in more than 30 countries, including the United States and Canada.
The company's chief executive, Christian Watts, said in a written statement that City Sightseeing was “deeply saddened” and was cooperating with authorities.
City Sightseeing's operation in San Francisco claims to have carried nearly 1.5 million passengers in the past five years using open-air buses, like the one that crashed Friday, minibuses and vans, the newspaper said.
The company has been properly licensed to do business since an employee took over the franchise in July 2013 but, before that, had its operating permit suspended numerous times between 2007 and 2013, the newspaper said.
San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim said Monday that police investigators suspect "a mechanical failure," most likely involving the brakes, but that the investigation was continuing.
But Kim implied that the accident could indicate a problem with how well San Francisco regulated tour buses, a frequent sight on busy city streets.
“We need to set a high bar for oversight of our tour buses given their size and their frequency and their presence in the busiest parts of our city,” she told the newspaper.
More about San Francisco, California, Tour bus, union square, Post Street
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