October 7, 2008 in Nation/World

Driver in fatal bus crash arrested on DUI suspicion

By JUDY LIN Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A charter bus that overturned Sunday is seen in a wrecking yard near Williams, Calif., on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

WILLIAMS, Calif. – The driver of a casino-bound charter bus that crashed and killed eight people was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, the California Highway Patrol said Monday.

The California Highway Patrol has identified the driver as 52-year-old Quintin Watts, of Stockton. Officers say they’re investigating whether prescription or nonprescription drugs, or alcohol, were involved in Sunday’s crash. They said it could be a combination.

Watts was arrested based on observations a witness made before the crash.

“We believe he was driving under the influence of something. That’s why we placed him under arrest,” patrol spokesman Robert Kays said Monday.

Watts is in critical condition.

The bus, which had an invalid license plate, drifted off a rural two-lane road before the driver swerved back, patrol spokesman Patrick Landreth said. The bus tumbled into a ditch, ejecting some passengers as it rolled and crushing others, police said.

“The roof was collapsed down, the windows were broken out, and the bus was not only rolled over onto its side, it rolled completely over,” Landreth said. “It was facing the opposite direction, and it was on its wheels.”

The bus did not have seat belts, the patrol said.

Watts had a valid commercial driver’s license, but the patrol is looking into whether he had the proper permits to drive a bus in California.

Authorities had not determined the name of the charter company early Monday morning.

The bus had “Greyhound” marked on its side. But a Greyhound official said it was no longer operated by the company.

Kays said the bus had a Texas license plate that was not valid. He said other registration serial numbers also came up invalid.

“There are still several pieces of this puzzle that’s missing,” Kays said. “We will find out who owns the bus.”

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