Thursday, August 14 (updated 5:45 am)
By Ryan Seals
A charter bus was impounded and seven illegal immigrants were detained Wednesday after the Highway Patrol pulled the bus over on Interstate 40/85 in Burlington.
Officials say the charter bus may be linked to the owner of a bus service being investigated after a crash killed 17 people in Texas last week.
Troopers stopped a bus along I-40/85 at mile marker 143 at 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, after they noticed a rear axle was lower than the legal limit, said Sgt. A.W. Waddell of the Highway Patrol.
The bus, which was coming from Wilson, was carrying 20 passengers and was scheduled to make stops in Texas and Mexico, Waddell said.
Officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement responded, and passengers were taken to a nearby hotel and interviewed. Seven were found to be in the country illegally, said Barbara Gonzalez, an immigration enforcement spokeswoman.
The detainees were processed and issued notices to appear before an immigration judge before being released on their own recognizance until their court dates, she said.
The bus was impounded. Troopers said arrangements were being made late Wednesday night to get all of the passengers to their destinations.
In addition to the safety violation, Waddell said, the bus was stopped because the federal government had issued a bulletin to watch for buses possibly linked to the investigation of a deadly bus crash Friday in Sherman, Texas.
Waddell said troopers were still analyzing paperwork seized from impounded bus late Wednesday.
“We believe it may be the same company (involved in the Texas crash),” Waddell said.
Federal officials have said Angel de la Torre owns Iguala BusMex, the company whose bus was involved in the Texas crash.
Officials had ordered de la Torre to remove his vehicles from interstate service on June 23, after another one of his companies, Angel Tours, was given an unsatisfactory review by federal regulators.
De la Torre is accused of continuing his bus service under Iguala BusMex, which used the same address and operator, federal officials said.
Iguala BusMex had received a U.S. Department of Transportation number but had not been approved for operation at the time of the accident.
On Sunday, John H. Hill, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, declared Angel Tours and Iguala BusMex an “imminent hazard to public safety” — meaning both companies had to immediately cease operation.
Questions left with a spokeswoman for the administration were not returned late Wednesday night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Ryan Seals at 373-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org