INDIO, Calif. — A judge Friday set a new trial date for a trucker accused of falling asleep at the wheel on Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, causing a crash that killed 13 people and injured 29 others aboard a tour bus.
Bruce Guilford of Covington, 51, was ordered to stand trial in February for more than 40 felony and misdemeanor counts, including vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving. His trial was originally set to begin in May but has been moved back twice, and was scheduled to begin Friday.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dean Benjamini Friday set an Aug. 30 date for trial proceedings to begin.
Guilford is accused of falling asleep at the wheel in the early morning hours of Oct. 23, 2016, minutes before a tour bus slammed into the rear of his rig on westbound Interstate 10. Teodulo Elias Vides, owner of the USA Holiday bus company, was killed, along with a dozen of his passengers riding near the front of the bus.
Guilford, who faces up to 35 years in prison, was arrested in Georgia in late 2017.
California Highway Patrol Officer Scott Parent testified last year that after comparing Guilford’s driver logs and the GPS device on his truck, he found that Guilford drove in excess of maximum driving time limits nearly every day of his round trip from Eufaula, Alabama, to Salinas.
Regulations mandate that drivers spend no longer than 11 hours per day on the road, not work longer than 14 hours after one’s shift begins and take a required 30-minute break per every eight hours of driving.
On the day of the crash, Guilford and other motorists came to a standstill on the freeway for five to 10 minutes following a traffic break conducted by the CHP to facilitate utility work on the freeway.
The CHP alleged that Guilford set his parking brake, then fell asleep as the traffic break was lifted and remained stopped for about a minute, until he was struck by the bus.
The officer said video footage captured from CHP officers conducting the traffic break and surveillance from a nearby FedEx building captured the truck stationary on Interstate 10 as cars slowed, then drove around it.
Guilford’s attorney, Joshua Mulligan, contended that there was no evidence that Guilford was asleep at the time of the crash, and questioned Parent’s summation of the data, from which he drew his conclusion that Guilford was sleep-deprived.
This report was published with the permission of Gino LaMont, news director of NBC Palm Springs.