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Originally published January 9, 2013 at 8:33 PM | Page modified January 10, 2013 at 6:14 AM

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Lawyer says black ice was big factor in deadly bus crash

A lawyer for the tour-bus company involved in a crash last week that killed nine people and injured 39 said the accident was more a result of the condition of the road than the condition of the driver.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Black ice contributed more to an Oregon bus crash last week that killed nine and injured 39 than the health of the bus driver, a lawyer for the Canadian tour company that operated the bus said Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on Tuesday ordered that Mi Joo Tour & Travel, based in Coquitlam, B.C., immediately halt operations in the United States because of several safety concerns, including the number of hours the driver had been on duty when the bus skidded off Interstate 84 on Dec. 30.

The USDOT investigation found that driver Haeng Kyu Hwang had been on duty for 92 hours the week of the crash. The federal limit is 70 hours of on-duty work per seven days.

Mark Scheer, a lawyer representing the company, said Hwang had about 7 ½ hours of sleep the night before the accident, about the same amount of sleep he'd had on other nights during the Western U.S. tour. He had been on the road only about 2 ½ hours on the day of the accident, Scheer said.

"It is believed that black ice was a significant factor in the cause of the accident," Scheer said at a news conference. "It appears that the area in question, unfortunately, has a history of traffic incidents, and there were other accidents in that area involving black ice on Dec. 30."

Scheer would not comment on whether the tour itinerary allowed for Hwang to be on duty for 70 hours or less. According to Scheer, Hwang is a properly licensed driver who previously worked as a school-bus driver with no history of bus-passenger accidents.

Although the USDOT's cease-service order said the company gave Hwang no post-accident drug or alcohol test, Scheer said there is no evidence to suggest drugs or alcohol played a role in the accident.

Many of the nine people who died in the crash had Puget Sound-area connections.

Those victims include Richard Sohn, 19, of Bellevue; Yong Ho Lee, 75, of Lynnwood; Chun Ho Bahn, 63, of Bothell; and Dale William Osborn, 57, of Spanaway. One couple — Oun Hong Jung, 67, and his wife Joong Wha Kim, 63 — had stayed with friends in Bothell before the trip.

Also killed were an 11-year-old girl, Youmin Kim, of South Korea; Ae Ja Kim, 61, of South Korea; and Seokmin Moon, 55, of Maple Ridge, B.C.

Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or avaughn@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.

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