CPUC: San Francisco tour bus involved in crash never inspected by CHP

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- New details have emerged in Friday's San Francisco tour bus accident that injured 20 people. Six people remain hospitalized at San Francisco General Hospital, including a minor. Three passengers are in critical condition, two in serious condition.

Saturday night, the bus driver's wife exclusively told ABC7 News that her husband said the bus' brakes failed. Also, that he crashed into the scaffolding in Union Square in an attempt to not hurt passengers.

PHOTOS: Several injuries reported after tour bus accident in SF

When asked if she thought it was safe to ride a City Sightseeing tour bus right now, San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim said she didn't think so. "I don't think I as a local supervisor could confidently tell a tourist that these vehicles are safe right now," Kim said.

City Sightseeing's CEO Christian Watts issued a statement that says it inspects its vehicles every 45 days or less. The bus that crashed was last inspected Oct. 25. Also, that the bus is registered with the DMV. However, the California Public Utilities Commission says City Sightseeing didn't register it with them which is why the California Highway Patrol never inspected the bus that crashed.

Kim said the tour bus is not safe in part because the City Sightseeing tour bus that crashed Friday was not on file with the state.

The CPUC tells ABC7 News, the CHP last inspected City Sightseeing's most recent vehicle on file this past September. CHP says it has never inspected the vehicle that crashed.

In a statement, CPUC says, "The license plate of the bus involved in Friday's crash does not appear to match the vehicles the CPUC has on file, nor did City Sightseeing officially notify the CPUC that it added the bus to its operations, which it is required to do."

"Early indications SFPD have given me are that they believe it was a mechanical failure on the part of the tour bus," Kim said.

The San Francisco Police Department says its complex investigation will take several weeks. CPUC is also investigating.

When asked how he knew the bus he was driving was safe, a City Sightseeingbus bus driver said he inspected it himself. "That's all I can vouch for," he added.

ABC7 News saw bus driver vehicle inspection reports in the windshields of several City Sightseeing tour buses. There was also a potential problem, one had a broken glass windshield on the upper deck. Despite that broken glass, the City Sightseeing bus rolled out with passengers on the upper deck.

"These are large heavy vehicles and they need to be maintained and kept safe at the highest standard," Kim said.

CPUC has previously investigated City Sightseeing for insurance and ownership issues, fined it for failing to produce records during a safety audit and even revoked the tour bus company's permit in 2013. It's currently operating under a new one.

CPUC released the following statement regarding City Sightseeing's troubled history:

"In 2012, the CPUC initiated an audit as part of its staff investigation of City Sightseeing, as the CPUC suspended and reinstated the company multiple times beginning in late 2007, early 2008 for various infractions. City Sightseeing was uncooperative and the CPUC issued a $1,000 citation (in February 2014) for failure to produce records during the audit. The company failed to pay the citation. The CPUC suspended, then revoked City Sightseeing's permit for the last time in November 2013. City Sightseeing currently operates under a new permit number once an employee of the company took over its operation in July 2013. The company currently maintains proper insurance and received a CHP inspection in September 2015. However, our preliminary information on the accident is that the license plate of the bus involved in Friday's crash does not appear to match the vehicles the CPUC has on file, nor did City Sightseeing officially notify the CPUC that it added the bus that was involved in the crash to its operations, which it is required to do. The CHP inspected the most recent vehicle on file with the CPUC in September 2015, which again, was not the bus involved in the accident. The SFPD is the first responder, and responsible for the immediate investigation. The CPUC will determine whether the carrier violated any Public Utilities Code or CPUC rules. The lack of clarity regarding the company's operations and vehicles is one of the issues our investigation will look at."

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