Trucker Sentenced to 4 Years for Crash Killing 13 Abruptly Released After 2 Months
Indio, CA – A trucker who was sentenced to four years in prison in August for his role in an October 2016 accident involving a passenger bus that left 13 people dead was released from custody on Monday.
A spokesperson from the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office announced last week that 53-year-old Bruce Guilford, of Covington, GA, was released because he had enough credits for time served.
Originally facing up to 35 years in prison, Guilford was in custody for two years after being released on October 28 — approximately two months into his four year prison sentence.
Guilford originally pleaded “not guilty” in November 2017 to the mountain of charges against him.
However, in August, Guilford changed his tune and pleaded “guilty to more than 40 felony and misdemeanor counts, including vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving.
He was immediately sentenced to four years in state prison.
The accident took place in the early morning hours of October 23, 2016 on Interstate 10 just outside of Palm Springs.
Guilford’s semi came to a stop in the westbound lanes around mile marker 32.5 at 5:07 a.m. due to a traffic break initiated by the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
According to a 56-page report published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), traffic was cleared to move again when CHP released the westbound lanes approximately seven minutes later.
The NTSB stated witnesses claim Guilford’s tractor-trailer did not move despite the release to operate, and remained in the center-right lane of the four-lanes of I-10.
CHP authorities later argued in court that Guilford set his parking break during the traffic stop and fell asleep.
Approximately two minutes after traffic resumed flowing, a passenger motorcoach, also traveling in the center-right lane on I-10 west, operated by 59-year-old Teodulo Elias Vides, collided into the rear of Guilford’s semi-trailer.
Vides, along with 12 passengers on the motorcoach, were killed in the crash.
The remaining 30 passengers also suffered injuries varying from minor to serious.
After a year-long investigation, the NTSB released its findings in October 2017, which determined the probable cause of the crash was:
(1) the California Department of Transportation’s inadequate transportation management plan for the traffic break, which resulted in a hazardous traffic situation in which law enforcement did not detect the combination vehicle’s lack of movement after the traffic break ended and the bus driver did not receive any advance warning of potential traffic stoppage ahead;
(2) the truck driver’s not moving his combination vehicle after the traffic break ended, most likely due to his falling asleep as a result of his undiagnosed moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea; and
(3) the bus driver’s lack of action to avoid the crash due to his not perceiving the combination vehicle as stopped, as a result of his fatigue and the fact that he did not expect to encounter stopped traffic.
The NTSB report noted that the drivers of both commercial vehicles — Guilford and Vides — were sleep deprived.
Guilford was arrested almost a year after the accident when he was taken into custody by a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force on October 19, 2018.
He was incarcerated since that time, until his release from California custody last Monday.
Photo courtesy California Highway Patrol