Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Bus driver in fatal crash in California is arrested

AP , WILLIAMS, CALIFORNIA

A bus driver with a string of motor vehicle offenses and a history of substance abuse was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol on Monday after his casino-bound charter bus ran into a ditch, killing eight people.

Investigators also said the bus had an invalid license plate, and they were looking into whether the driver had proper permits to operate the vehicle. The bus ran off the road on Sunday while taking passengers to a casino in northern California. About 30 people were injured.

Many of the passengers were senior citizens and Laotian immigrants who fled to Thailand in the 1970s after the Vietnam War, then moved to the US.

“We are shocked. It’s terrible,” said Seng Her, the refugee project coordinator at the nonprofit Sacramento Lao Family Community.

Two of the group’s employees and a member of its board lost family members in the crash.

Records show 52-year-old Quintin Watts had been cited for speeding and other violations that resulted in loss of his license for nearly two years. He regained his driving privileges last January.

Watts was arrested as he lay critically injured in his hospital bed. His mother said he had wrestled with drug and alcohol problems, was jailed several times on drug charges and had smashed a car carrying a friend into a tree a few years ago, though neither was seriously hurt.

He was a longtime truck driver, but had been unable to find a trucking job since being released from jail, his mother Chaney Mae Watts said.

Watts served time in prison intermittently in the 1980s and 1990s for receiving stolen property, check fraud and credit card theft, and possession of marijuana for sale.

His latest conviction was for possession of a firearm by an ex-felon. He was paroled in December after serving almost six months in prison, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said.

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