As I’m sure many of you have heard already, there was a tragic bus accident in Texas on Friday in which 15 Vietnamese Americans were killed and several dozens more injured when their chartered bus apparently blew a tire, lost control, flipped off a bridge, and crashed.
Most of the passengers were from Vietnamese Catholic Martyr Church in southeast Houston and Our Lady of Lavang Church, northwest of Houston. Houston contains the third-largest population of Vietnamese Americans in the U.S., behind Orange County (CA) and San Jose (CA). They were on their way to a pilgrimage in Missouri to celebrate The Feast of Assumption.
What makes this tragedy even worse are that (1) it seems that the bus did not have a license to legally operate, (2) the owners of the bus company had been cited several times for previous safety violations while he ran another bus company, and (3) the most immediate cause of the crash was apparently a right front tire that had been recapped, again in violation of safety regulations.
To try to put this tragedy in a larger sociological context, it’s necessary to tie this accident to similar problems and accidents involving chartered buses that serve Chinatown residents in the northeast (sometimes called “Dragon buses”) and their checkered record when it comes to safety.
The observation I’m trying to make is that many Asian American immigrant populations, such as those in Chinatowns and the Vietnamese one in Houston, have little choice but to go with the least expensive charter bus service possible, since that is all that their financial resources allow. Unfortunately, it seems that this then puts them in greater danger of shady bus companies that cut corners on safety in order be able to charge lower prices.
To top it all off, in many cases, many of these unsafe bus companies are run by other Asian Americans, or in the case of the Houston tragedy, by other people of color. In other words, such operators are basically preying on their own community and putting their lives in danger in order to make a profit.
Like I said, a tragedy all around.