Several passengers on a Greyhound bus that crashed on southbound Highway 99 on March 24 are suing the bus line and the driver for negligence after he was arrested for driving under the influence.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Fresno County Superior court, alleges Greyhound knew several days before the crash the driver of the bus, 28-year-old Ashton Rennick Castillo, was driving on a suspended license.
California Highway Patrol investigators confirmed his license was suspended or withdrawn March 21 in New Mexico, four days before the crash.
“Based on this suspension, defendant Castillo was not allowed to drive any motor vehicles, including the subject bus,” the lawsuit states.
But Greyhound still allowed him to drive, the lawsuit alleges. The Bee called Greyhound on Friday, seeking a response the lawsuit’s allegations. That call was not returned Friday afternoon.
The night of the crash, the bus was headed to Los Angeles from Sacramento with 38 passengers. At about 9:30 p.m. the bus slammed into a guardrail on Highway 99 in Fresno. About 10 people complained of pain following the crash, investigators said.
One of those passengers, Freeman Mays of Southern California, told the CHP after the crash he noticed Castillo had “trouble walking and looked like he was either sleepy or high,” according to the lawsuit.
Mays is one of the passengers filing the lawsuit. The survivors are seeking general damages, punitive damages and any other relief the court may find appropriate. Their lawyer Brittney Baca of Southern California said her clients are suffering from neck, back, and shoulder pain, along with some numbness to the legs for one of the plaintiffs.
Other passengers reported that Castillo was so out of it that he was unable to load the bags and needed help from other passengers. He even got in the bus and forgot to close the cargo area.
Mays said Castillo had a hard time staying in his lane while driving down Highway 99 near Madera.
“The bus was in and out of the right lane and continually running over the rumble strips on the right side of the roadway,” according to the lawsuit.
Castillo lost control of the bus in Fresno as it drove off the highway and onto the west asphalt shoulder, where it continued until he struck a concrete embankment.
The bus then veered back across the freeway, crashing into guardrail and finally coming to rest in the right-hand lane of Highway 99 as it transitions to eastbound Highway 180.
Castillo was arrested and charged with felony DUI and a misdemeanor count of driving with a suspended or revoked license. When police arrested him they found three open baggies of cannabis edibles.
Castillo pleaded no contest to the felony DUI charge and the misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license was dismissed as part of plea agreement. He will be sentenced on Oct. 30.