It was a nightmare ride for three local women who took a weekend bus trip to New York City. After learning about the ordeal, NewsChannel 5 Investigators uncovered troubling records behind the company.
Even before the women had a bad trip home, U.S. Coach Tours out of Alliance had already gotten a second-tier rating by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
"It was a girls' weekend away," said Lori Bratcher from Brewster. She, Amy Sexton, and a woman named Kim, who wanted to remain anonymous, took their daughters to New York City using Carnation U.S. Coach Tours.
Two busses left from Alliance for the big trip. The women had a good time seeing the sites but coming back Bratcher said there was trouble. “The ride home was a little scary."
During that return trip, the women said it appeared the bus driver was very tired.
“He did swerve two times into other lanes of traffic," Bratcher said. Kim told us, “The swerve that I was awake for and I know that we did was swerving into a semi." Plus, the women told us it wasn't just their bus. "I did see the other bus completely swerve into another lane,” Sexton said. “That's at the point where we had to stop and pull over."
Bratcher explained when the driver continued, she sat up front trying to keep the driver attentive. "Yelled out 'Are you okay? Are you awake?' I was scared,” Bratcher explained.
We obtained records from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that deals with bus safety. From that trip, the commission cited U.S. Coach Tours for violations dealing with drivers being on the road too much. But that's not all. We also found similar violations in the past two years against U.S. Coach Tours with drivers behind the wheel too long.
Less than a week before the women left for NYC, the feds gave the tour bus company a conditional rating. That meant the carrier was out of compliance with one or more safety requirements including vehicle maintenance problems.
The women's advice? "I would make sure that I check out safety records,” Kim said. “I think that's what everybody should do."
One of the operators of Carnation U.S. Coach Tours originally agreed to an interview but then did a u-turn and canceled. After several attempts to reschedule, we got an email saying we should contact his attorney. We did and, so far, no response.