Crime - Sacto 911

Is driver convicted in deadly 2008 Colusa bus crash still in prison?

Q: Shortly after I moved to the Sacramento area, a terrible bus accident occurred. A bus driving people to a local casino in late evening went off the road and 11 passengers were killed. The driver, Quintin Watts, had fallen asleep at the wheel. He was condemned to 26 years in state prison. I was wondering if the gentleman was still in prison, or if there is any prospect of an early parole. If nothing else, after 10 years, doesn’t the state have anything better to do with my tax dollars?

Edric Cane, Carmichael

A: Quintin Joey Watts of Stockton was convicted of 11 counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and 21 counts of causing great bodily injury stemming from the October 2008 crash that occurred as he was driving 41 people to the Colusa Casino Resort.

He was sentenced in November 2009 to 26 years and four months in state prison. Now 61 years old, Watts is at California State Prison, Solano, in Vacaville. Inmate information available online currently shows that will be eligible for parole in July 2028.

The bus was headed from Sacramento to the casino when Watts, a trainee driver, swerved, sending the bus off a straight, narrow country road near Williams and plowed into a ditch, according to an account in The Sacramento Bee. Prosecutors concluded that Watts was driving while exhausted after sleeping no more than three or four hours in the 27 hours before the crash.

Watts’ boss, bus company owner Daniel Cobb, was among the 11 people killed in the crash. Thirty people were injured, 21 seriously.

Watts’ attorney argued for a nine-year sentence on the grounds that Watts was a tired, overworked employee who crashed the bus while trying to do his job.

But Colusa Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson was not swayed. In sentencing Watts, the judge said that Watts had “demonstrated little or no appreciation for his role in bringing about this immense tragedy.”

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy