Los Angeles

‘We're Going to Miss Her': Family Members of Bus Crash Victim Speak

The crash Sunday killed 13 people during a desert casino trip

What to Know

  • Thirteen people were killed and 31 were injured in the Sunday crash
  • The bus was headed to LA, returning from Red Earth Casino in the desert town of Thermal
  • Federal records show the bus had no crashes in the past two years and had a satisfactory safety rating

Jacqueline Ochoa paused to keep from crying on Monday when talking about her beloved aunt, Zoila Aguilera, who was among 13 bus passengers killed in a horrific crash in Palm Springs on their way back to LA from a casino.

The mother of four, grandmother of six and great grandmother of two loved casinos. She came from El Salvador decades ago for a better life and found it in South LA with family and friends.

Ochoa said her aunt was a big personality whose smile and laugh would light up a room.

"She was a mother for us, very lovely, very lovely mother," Ochoa said. "We're going to miss her. It's hurts so much for me and my daughter and grandchildren."

Anita Aguirre said in Spanish "Marguerita," as Aguilera was called, was "always very happy" and a great mother-in-law to her daughter who lived in the house next door.

Aguilera lived with her other son after she retired from working in a nursing home.

The family said she always kept herself busy, finding dances to attend, listening to mariachi music and going to the casinos.

They said she liked to gamble, but she also liked the time she spent with her friends, one of whom included the driver of the bus, Teodulo Vides, 59, who they heard was always responsible and safe.

In addition to Aguilera and Vides, 11 other victims were identified by the Riverside County Coroner's Office on Monday:

  • Yolanda Mendoza, 69, of Los Angeles;
  • Gustavo Green, 62, of Los Angeles;
  • Isabel Jimenez Hernandez, 66, of Los Angeles;
  • Milagros Gonzales, 72, of Los Angeles;
  • Conception Corvera, 57, of Palmdale;
  • Aracely Tije, 63, of Los Angeles;
  • Dora Galvez de Rodriguez, 69, Los Angeles;
  • Elvia Sanchez, 52, of Los Angeles;
  • Ana Gomes de Magallon, 71, of Los Angeles;
  • Rosa Ruiz, 53, of Los Angeles;
  • Tony Mai, 50, of Los Angeles. 

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to Southern California to investigate the crash that also left 31 injured. 

The agency said 10 members of its crash investigation team arrived late Monday morning. They'll spend up to 10 days investigating before releasing a preliminary recommendation. A news conference with updates on the investigation is scheduled for early Monday afternoon. 

The bus was returning home to Los Angeles from a casino trip when it crashed into the back of a semi-truck on a Southern California highway early Sunday. It's not known if alcohol, drugs or fatigue played a role in the crash.

Authorities said the bus was going much faster than the truck, causing it to plow about 15 feet into the truck on the 10 Freeway, just north of the desert resort town of Palm Springs. Passengers who were asleep on the bus woke up to loud screams and the sound of crushing metal.

The bus driver was killed, and the truck driver suffered minor injuries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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