FW couple joins lawsuit over fatal Oregon tour bus crash

The Dec. 30 crash in Eastern Oregon
The Dec. 30 crash in Eastern Oregon's Blue Mountains is considered among the deadliest in the state's history. A tour bus crashed through a guardrail and rolled down an embankment along an icy Interstate 84.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Two Federal Way residents, husband and wife Woon-Jae Lee and Jung-Nyeo Lee, have joined a lawsuit over the tour bus crash that killed nine people and injured 38 more in Oregon in late December.

Jung-Nyeo Lee, the wife, is still recovering in a Portland-area hospital from multiple fractures she received as a result of the crash. Woon-Jae Lee, her husband, is also the personal representative of the estate of his sister, Ae-Ja Kim, who was one of the nine killed. He will be seeking damages as part of the lawsuit against Mi Joo Travel and Tour of Vancouver, B.C.

Lee's brother-in-law, Man-Sum Kim, is currently recovering from two broken legs in a Portland hospital. The Kims had been staying with the Lees while they visited from South Korea.

The Dec. 30 crash in Eastern Oregon's Blue Mountains is considered among the deadliest in the state's history. A tour bus crashed through a guardrail and rolled down an embankment along an icy Interstate 84.

Attorneys Charles Herrmann and John Scholbe amended their initial complaint against Mi Joo Travel to include the company's president, Edward Kang, as well as the driver of the bus on that fateful night, Haeng-Kyu Hwang.

The complaint filed by the attorneys indicate that they feel that Mi Joo, Kang and Hwang were all negligent and that their actions directly led to the fatal bus crash.

"The deadly combination of driver fatigue, ignored warnings, and excessive speeds in hazardous winter conditions were dictated by management policies established by Defendant Edward Kang that were based upon cost and profit considerations rather than the safety of their passengers," the complaint alleged.

Herrmann noted that the driver was fatigued after working well in excess of the hours allowed by federal regulations. An order by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, revoking the company's permit, found that "Mi Joo Tour and Travel allowed its driver…to drive far in excess of the maximum hours of service (70 hours)…driver Hwang was at 92 hours when he was involved in a crash resulting in 9 passenger fatalities, and 39 passenger injuries."

The night of the crash, conditions on the roadway were icy and foggy. According to the complaint, eyewitnesses place the speed of the bus at or above 70 mph, well above the posted 55 mph speed limit.

"I was somewhat surprised to read in the press release of Mi Joo's defense counsel where he agreed with me that ice was present on the roadway and an important factor in the accident," Herrmann said, "although I'm not sure he realizes the significance of his further admission that before the accident Mr. Hwang had driven only 2 and a half hours, including a rest stop. The hotel they departed from earlier was approximately 203 miles from the scene of the accident. If you do the math, it calculates out to more than an 81 mph average."

Herrmann noted that the type of calamity that fell the passengers of the Mi Joo tour bus is unusual, and that they're fighting to make sure those left behind are properly compensated.

"Our hearts go out to not only the bereaved families of the deceased, but also to those such as our clients Mrs. Lee and Mr. Kim who have suffered catastrophic disabling injuries. We are also deeply concerned about the emotional trauma experienced by virtually all of these victims. Few people have ever experienced the psychological trauma created by this degree of violence and resulting carnage."


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