Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
Investigators are speaking with all the survivors and witnesses, reviewing Cardinal Coach Lines' safety records and the damaged bus to determine the cause of Thursday's crash.
Investigators reviewing the wreckage of Thursday's fatal Irving bus crash downplayed suggestions that a tire blowout caused the wreck.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Sgt. Lonny Haschel said tire damage on the bus is not consistent with a blowout, but that nothing has been ruled out yet in determining the cause of the crash.
"Currently there's not one thing that is leading us to believe it's a causative factor in this crash, so we're going to have do a very thorough investigation, put all the pieces of the puzzle together, and it's going to take some time," Haschel said.
The tour bus was heading to the Choctaw Casino in Durant, Okla., when it struck a guardrail and overturned on the President George Bush Turnpike near Belt Line Road at about 9 a.m.
Haschel said a total of 44 injured people have now been accounted for at local hospitals, up from the figure of 42 injured people Irving fire officials reported Thursday.
Two people were killed. The bus had 46 people on board, including the driver, Loyd Rieve, of Dallas.
Rieve, 65, was still in intensive care at Parkland Memorial Hospital on Friday, according to a relative.
Investigators plan to talk with Rieve, all of the survivors, witnesses from the crash scene and officials from Cardinal Coach Lines, the bus owner.
The damaged bus is receiving a detailed examination in a Plano storage garage.
Investigators are also reviewing pictures and other evidence from the scene.
"We're going to make sure all the pieces of the puzzle are together," Haschel said. "We want to be able to answer anybody's questions."
Dallas personal injury attorney Frank Branson, who has sued other bus companies over other accidents, said he believes seat belts and stronger glass windows could have helped reduce death or injury in the accident.
"When a bus turns on its side, the people who were on the top side of the bus become human projectiles toward the other side of the bus, and they either hit the hard structures of the bus itself or they hit the passengers," he said.
A federal law approved last year will require buses to have seat belts and safety glass several years in the future, but those features are not required now.
"It's a real shame that you have to have a federal ordinance to make bus companies do what they know is safe to start with," Branson said. "If the manufacturers don't put safety belts in buses, certainly the charter companies could add them."
Officials with Grand Prairie-based Cardinal Coach Lines declined comment Thursday night.
Company records include relatively minor safety violations in the past. It received a satisfactory federal safety rating in a 2011 inspection.
The bus driver, Loyd Rieve, has been working as a commercial driver for nearly 30 years, according to his family.
In 2001, Rieve and another bus company, Central West Motor Stages, were sued over a 1998 bus crash. Court records name Rieve as the driver who swerved around a crash on Interstate 35 and fatally struck a man who was helping a woman injured in the wreck.
The Good Samaritan's family sued Rieve and Central West for damages but lost the case in court in Dallas County. A passenger on the bus also filed suit over the crash but lost.
A grand jury declined to indict Rieve in the crash.
Rieve was behind the wheel in a deadly bus crash in 1998. He swerved around a crash on Interstate 35 and struck and killed a Good Samaritan who was trying to help victims.
Calls and messages to Cardinal Coach have not been returned.
The Texas Highway Patrol is expected to produce a preliminary report on the Irving crash within 10 business days, and Haschel said it will likely take investigators that long to finish it.
"We have several teams on the ground working on different aspects of the investigation," he said.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are also working on the investigation.
Passengers Injured; Organizer Killed
On Friday, officials revised their total and said 46 people were on board the bus at the time of the crash. Forty-four were injured and two were killed, one of whom was the casino trip organizer, Sue Taylor, 81, of Hurst.
Taylor and Paula Hahn, 69, of Fort Worth, died in the crash, DPS said.
Family friends described Taylor, who went by the name "Casino Sue," as a "firecracker" of a woman.
"We're devastated," Janet Denham said.
Her friends said Taylor often planned casino trips and would entertain her guests with games during the road trips. Her daughter told NBC 5 that her mother had been organizing the trips for 10 years.
Information from area hospitals had 13 patients still receiving treatment at Parkland, three at Baylor Irving, one at Baylor Dallas, and one at Methodist. All patients were treated and released at the UT Southwester St. Paul Medical Center. Las Colinas Medical Center did not respond to calls for updates on the seven patients transported there.
"After hearing what I've heard and seeing what I've seen in person, I feel extremely fortunate to be virtually injury-free -- a few scrapes, whatever," Risik said. "Other than that, I feel very lucky."
Deadly Texas Bus Crash Coincides with Safety Crackdown
The deadly charter-bus crash Thursday happened in the middle of an aggressive push by federal regulators to shutter unscrupulous carriers and ramp up safety inspections.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has shut down more than a dozen private bus companies -- nearly half of which it deemed "imminent hazards" -- over the past couple months. Last week, the agency announced it was deploying a team of more than 50 safety investigators throughout the country to conduct a wider examination of "higher risk" carriers, including many small charter operations. The FMCSA also asked local police to join the crackdown by boosting traffic enforcement.
The inspection teams headed out into the field on April 1, with orders to target 250 companies with lackluster safety records, according to the American Bus Association, a trade group whose officials were briefed by federal authorities.
Among the carriers already shut down by the FMCSA was Fung Wah, a popular discount bus service between New York City and Boston that had a history of crashes and safety violations.
It's not clear whether the owner of the bus that wrecked Thursday, Cardinal Coach Line, would have been targeted in the crackdown had the crash not happened. According to FMCSA's online record system, Cardinal Coach Line was given a "satisfactory" safety rating in 2009. In the past two years, none of the company's five buses have been in a crash, the records say. But the company's two inspections over that period found violations that resulted in putting a bus and/or or a driver out of service.