Family of Sacramento bus driver killed in Orland crash files suit

The family of the Sacramento bus driver killed with nine others in a fiery Interstate 5 collision with a FedEx truck near Orland in April has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the freight carrier.

Talalelei Lealao-Taiao, 53, of Sacramento, drove the Silverado Stages tour coach that was struck head-on by a FedEx tractor-trailer April 10. The bus was carrying Los Angeles-area high school students to a weekend tour of Humboldt State University in Arcata.

The tractor-trailer was headed south about 5:40 p.m. on Interstate 5 near Orland, about 100 miles north of Sacramento, when it veered across the median and struck a sedan before slamming into the northbound bus. The truck was driven by Timothy Paul Evans, 32, of Elk Grove, who died in the collision.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report in April but is still investigating and has yet to say what caused the truck to cross the median.

The FedEx tractor-trailer that day had left Sacramento at 10 a.m. to deliver two trailers in Weed, about 49 miles south of the Oregon border, according to the NTSB. Evans picked up two other trailers around 3:30 p.m. and was headed back to Sacramento when the crash occurred.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Alameda Superior Court, seeks damages in excess of $25,000, claiming the FedEx tractor-trailer was driven and operated negligently, causing the collision.

FedEx Corp. officials offered condolences in a statement Thursday, saying the Memphis, Tenn.-based company continues to cooperate with authorities.

“Our heartfelt condolences remain with everyone touched by this tragic accident. We remain focused on providing support to those affected and cooperating with the authorities as they conduct their investigation,” the statement read.

Family attorney Richard C. Bennett of Oakland firm Bennett Johnson LLP was unavailable Thursday. But in a statement, he said he anticipated Wednesday’s filing and related wrongful death suits filed in the Los Angeles area may eventually be consolidated by the courts.

A petition was approved earlier this month by state judicial officials to coordinate the various lawsuits for pretrial purposes in Los Angeles Superior Court, said attorney Katherine Harvey-Lee on Thursday. Harvey-Lee of Los Angeles-based Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman PC filed suit on behalf of victim Mattison Haywood, a chaperone, and two others injured in the collision.

A status conference is set for Nov. 6 in Los Angeles, Harvey-Lee said.

Five students and three chaperones, along with Evans and Lealao-Taiao, died in the crash. The mother of one high school student filed suit in April seeking $100 million in general and punitive damages.

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.