The Utah Highway Patrol on Tuesday identified the driver of a charter bus who was killed Monday when his coach, carrying more than 50 casino tourists, slammed into the rear of a heavy construction truck.
Pita Asiata — the 53-year-old father of professional football player Matt Asiata — was killed when his Wendover-bound Le Bus collided with the truck on Interstate 80, about 33 miles east of the Utah-Nevada border gambling town.
Approximate location of crash
Le Bus Statement Regarding the October 28 Accident at Mile Post 34 on I-80:
Obviously, our first concern is for the family of our bus driver, for all who were injured and their families, and for each of the other passengers on our bus. Our primary concern is always for the safety of our employees and passengers. Our thoughts and prayers are with each of them. We are in the process of conducting a thorough investigation into the accident and it would be premature for us to comment on the accident prior to completion of our investigation.”
— Bryan Copyak, director of operations for Le Bus
Utah football family expresses sorrow:
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pita Asiata, the father of Matt and Shawn Asiata. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Matt, Shawn and their entire family as they go through this extremely difficult time.”
— Utes Coach Kyle Whittingham
Le Bus spokesman Tim Brown confirmed that Asiata, of Bountiful, was the father of the former Hunter High and University of Utah and current Minnesota Vikings running back.
The Vikings issued a statement that read: "This is heartbreaking news for Matt and his family. We are here to support the Asiata family in any way possible. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Asiata family."
U. football coach Kyle Whittingham also offered the sympathy of his team and program as well to Matt Asiata and Shawn Asiata, who also played for the Utes.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Pita Asiata, the father of Matt and Shawn Asiata," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Matt, Shawn and their entire family as they go through this extremely difficult time."
The crash drove a large auger on the truck through the front of the bus and into the driver’s seat and Asiata, who suffered "massive chest trauma," according to UHP Cpl. Todd Johnson.
Four passengers were taken to the hospital, one a woman who remained in critical condition Tuesday.
Johnson said two victims suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries, while a pregnant woman was transported to the hospital as a precaution when she experienced contractions.
Further details on the identities of the injured were not immediately available. The other passengers were transferred to another bus to continue on to Salt Lake City.
Johnson said the construction vehicle had slowed in preparation to make a U-turn at a construction site-related median turnout when the bus, apparently unable to slow down in time, smashed into the truck at 5:39 p.m. Monday.
The collision sent both vehicles 300 feet down the road. None of the three workers on the truck was seriously injured, Johnson said.
West Valley City-based Le Bus, a division of the Rock Springs-Jackson Bus Lines, operates a fleet of 130 motor coaches. While it offers charters and tours throughout the Intermountain West, one of its most popular routes is the round trip to Wendover and its casinos.
Bryan Copyak, director of operations for Le Bus, said the crash was under investigation by both his company and UHP.
"Obviously, our first concern is for the family of our bus driver, for all who were injured and their families, and for each of the other passengers on our bus," he said in a statement.
"Our primary concern is always for the safety of our employees and passengers. Our thoughts and prayers are with each of them."
Reporter Matt Piper contributed to this story.
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