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Chasing The Bus
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Season 2
Number 18
Writer Eli Talbert
Director Richard J. Lewis
Original Airdate March 28, 2002
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Next Episode: Stalker

Chasing The Bus is the eighteenth episode in season two of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Synopsis

The team investigates a bus crash in which nine people lost their lives. Before his death, the driver claimed the bus began to vibrate, making it impossible for him to control. The team has to find out whether the accident truly was an accident or involved foul play.

Plot

Victim: Nine victims (deceased)

On the case: entire team

A tour bus full of passengers is on its way to Vegas. Suddenly, the driver jams on the gas pedal and the bus exceeds 70 MPH. The steering wheel begins to shake and the driver loses complete control, eventually crashing into a guard rail and flying off the side of the road. Later, the CSIs arrive and watch helplessly as emergency services try to save some of the passengers on the bus.

Grissom advises his team to think worst-case scenario. He has Sara and Warrick process the highway top to bottom, including photographing skid marks and noting anything that may be out of place. Greg soon arrives to assist, having gotten the call that it was all hands on deck. He has no field training and can't collect evidence, so Nick has him take notes.

The bus company's owner, Larry Maddox, arrives and offers to help in any way he can. He provides Brass with the passenger manifest, and one name sticks out: a parolee-at-large named Calvin McBride, who was sitting in seat 1C. Calvin was just released from a California prison last week and has already violated his parole by travelling across state lines.

Grissom examines the undercarriage of the bus and sees that the right front tire blew out completely; however, the front left tire is still intact. He notes to Catherine that every part of the undercarriage is connected and that the lower radius rod arm, which connects the axle to the frame, is broken. If the rod arm breaking was the first action, it likely caused the driver to turn the wheel in order to maintain control. However, this made things worse; pressure was put on the front right tire, causing it to blow.

During the accident, the bus collided with a Camaro and killed the driver. Catherine goes to look over the wreck and is surprised to find someone alive in the back seat. She grabs the man's hand and alerts the paramedics, who take him to the ambulance. Her hands are now covered in blood, which is evidence.

Bus driver Martin Draper has survived the accident due to the fact that he was the only one onboard wearing a seat belt. A disoriented Martin is unable to tell Nick exactly when the steering wheel started to shake and is more concerned with getting his passengers to their destination. Nick questions whether Martin has been drinking; however, before he can conduct a preliminary field breath test, Martin starts to cough up blood. Greg is ordered to get help, but is frozen in shock. The bus driver later dies.

Calvin McBride's body is still unaccounted for; he wasn't admitted to the hospital nor is he in one of the body bags. Per Greg's suggestion, Nick checks the bus. While he finds no body, he does find an opened bottle of whiskey in a brown paper bag, which Calvin was seen drinking from earlier. DNA confirms this when Greg brings it back to the lab. Calvin was sitting in the only seat with an unobstructed path through the windshield, and Grissom sees that half of the windshield is missing. He and Nick search the area and come across the bloodied windshield; Calvin's body is nearby.

On the highway, Sara picks up a piece of torn rubber which she notes could've come from any vehicle. She and Warrick spot an impression in the road that came from the broken rod arm. There's a second set of tire treads that the CSIs believe is from the Camaro. Based on the tread evidence, they conclude that the bus crossed four lanes of traffic, hit the guardrail on the opposite side of the road, then came back across the four lanes. It's a miracle that the only vehicle the bus took out was the Camaro.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Nick that Martin wasn't intoxicated. The bus driver had Type II Diabetes and was crash dieting; he hadn't eaten anything in over six hours. An empty stomach invites hypoglycemia, and it's symptoms can mirror intoxication; in extreme cases, it leads to loss of consciousness and seizure. Doc Robbins labels the cause of death as internal bleeding due to the massive injuries Martin suffered in the crash. This leads Grissom to think that the focus of the investigation should be the bus.

Warrick finds a bolt on the highway that's clearly been sheared; it matches the bolt on the specs for the suspension system. The hex head says that the bolt is a grade eight; however, a lab tests determines that it's only a grade five. Grissom examines another bolt and the team concludes that the bus company has been using bogus bolts. Inferior bolts would cause the suspension to give, but the gouge in the road proves that the bolts snapped midway through the skid after the bus hit the guard rail. The driver hit the brakes and initiated the skid, but the question now is why he needed to hit the brakes—the only vehicle on the road was the Camaro, and it was behind the bus.

Catherine heads to the hospital to follow up with the driver of the Camaro. Unfortunately, 32-year-old Eric Kevlin dies in surgery. He was on his way from California to surprise his girlfriend, but Brass uncovers something more. Eric curiously signed a Do Not Resuscitate form, refusing CPR, and Catherine wonders why someone so young would do such a thing.

Larry Maddox insists that he keeps strict maintenance records on his fleet of buses and says that vehicle inspections are required every 45 days by law. However, when told that the whole front suspension was riddled with shoddy bolts, he shuts down the fleet. He tells Grissom and Warrick that he just started buying bolts from a new company in an effort to save a buck.

Back in the lab, Sara examines the tire pieces from the highway and separates them out, focusing on the ones that came from the bus in question. She finds something unusual on one of the pieces and swabs it for evidence. Meanwhile, Brass questions employees of the gas station in Barstow, where the bus last filled up before it's fateful trip. One woman tells Brass that she saw a young couple arguing. While this story can't be confirmed by another employee, he does say that the bus is always on time and sticks to a schedule.

Nick looks over the Camaro and finds Eric's wallet in the center console. He recognizes a photo of Eric's girlfriend; she was a victim in the accident. In the hospital, Tracy Logan tells Catherine and Nick that she was supposed to be on a girls weekend trip to Vegas; however, Eric followed her, fearing that he was going to lose her. The two fought in Barstow before parting ways, but Eric continued to follow the bus. When told that Eric signed a Do Not Resuscitate, Tracy explains that because he was a doctor, he saw people hooked up to machines every day. He made the decision that if his life was at stake, he would make the hard decision so nobody else had to.

Grissom examines the skid marks on a monitor and works on what lies underneath. He finds an indentation in the road, which provides him with the order of events: the right tire blew first, leaving the indentation in the pavement. The skid marks obscured the indentation, which explains why nobody picked up on it earlier. Martin tried to overcorrect, but since there was no front tire, the force was placed on the suspension system. This caused the bolt to snap and the rod arm to break.

But, why did the tire blow in the first place? A lab test shows that someone put chloroform inside the tire, suggesting premeditation. Grissom explains to his team that chloroform destroys the elasticity of the rubber, and the air pressure inside the tire would eventually cause it to explode.

Another passenger dies, putting the body count at nine. Grissom wonders if whoever tampered with the tire had a specific target in mind. All of the victims had something sketchy in their pasts, but Grissom focuses on Tracy. Eric didn't want her in Vegas and had followed her out from Los Angeles; the first step to stopping her would be to stop the bus. Furthermore, as a doctor, he would have access to chloroform. Though Catherine and Brass don't see this happening, Grissom notes that Eric had motive, access, and opportunity. When asked, Brass posits that Larry Maddox is behind the accident—he ordered cheap supplies and has been way too helpful.

The team gets a duplicate tire from the bus company and puts it on a treadmill. On the advice of a lab tech in Trace, Sara uses a glass rod and puts chloroform in the tire. When she gets up from doing so, Grissom and Warrick see that she uses her hand to prop herself up. She dusts the tire rim and finds a hand print, which belongs to a Sean Nolan. His DMV record shows that he has a Class B license with passenger endorsement, which allows him to drive a vehicle with over ten passengers. It just so happens that Sean is on the employee roster for Mojave Express, the same company that owns the bus in the accident.

It's determined that the tire was tampered with in Barstow. Eric Kevlin is off the hook when no traces of chloroform are found on his clothing and car. The focus now shifts to Sean, but Nick cautions that his print on the tire rim could be legitimate since he's an employee of the bus company. However, Larry informs Warrick that Sean was terminated two months ago after marijuana was found in his locker. He provides Warrick with the maintenance records for every vehicle over the last six months.

According to Larry, Sean now works in Barstow; coincidentally, three of Larry's buses have had blowouts since Sean's termination. When questioned, Sean denies any involvement, but a pressure gauge in his back pocket tests positive for chloroform. He admits that he only smoked a joint one weekend and wanted to stick it to Larry for his termination and the black mark on his record. To get his revenge, he sabotaged some of the bus tires, knowing that the suspension system would keep the bus on the road in the event of a flat tire. As he's arrested, Sean sorrowfully says that he never meant to hurt anyone.

Catherine, Grissom and Brass recap the case. Sean sabotaged the tires, but the bad bolts caused the suspension to fail and the bus to crash. All of this was mitigated by Larry trying to save money. In the end, nine people lost their lives.

Cast

Main Cast

Guest Cast

  • Eric Szmanda as Greg Sanders
  • Robert David Hall as Dr. Al Robbins
  • David Berman as David Phillips
  • Denis Arndt as Larry Maddox
  • Joseph D. Reitman as Sean Nolan
  • Cara Buono as Tracy Logan
  • Scott Plank as Eric Kevlin
  • Eddie Jemison as Vincent
  • Kevin Will as Martin Draper
  • Eric Matheny as Dr. Hawkins
  • Lauren Hodges as Jill
  • Kris Iyer as ER Surgeon
  • Christopher Caso as Ryan Hyde
  • Stephon Fuller as Gas Station Attendant
  • Monica Garcia as Mrs. Parker
  • Stuart Gold as John Cooper
  • Jim Hanna as Jack
  • Jerry Hauck as Mr. Parker
  • Revital Krawetz as Diane Cooper
  • Mark Lentry as Calvin McBride
  • Billy Mayo as Fire Chief James Walker
  • Julie Mintz as Sabrina Wright
  • Kate Orsini as Mini-Mart Clerk
  • Todd E. Slayton as Paramedic
  • Mona Wyatt as Gwen Murray

Major Events

  • Greg goes out into the field for the first time when all Las Vegas CSIs are called to the scene.

Goofs

  • When Sara has the trace elements from the blown tire analyzed by Greg, she takes the results out of the printer and runs away with them instantly. Later, when she shows the results to Grissom, the results are signed by Greg, even though he had no chance to even touch the paper.

Music

  • All Right Now by Free

Notes

  • After Greg asks "Just out of curiosity, what are the unobvious spots?" Grissom replies, "For bodies? Yeah. Walls, hot water heaters, stuffed in the box spring of a hotel room bed." A body was find in a hot water heater in a previous Season Two episode, Scuba Doobie-Doo, while the wall incident is referring the Season One episode, Who Are You?. The finding of a body stuffed in the box spring of a hotel room bed is based on a real event.

See Also

CSI:Las Vegas Season 2
BurkedChaos TheoryOverloadBully for YouScuba Doobie-DooAlter BoysCagedSlaves of Las VegasAnd Then There Were NoneEllieOrgan GrinderYou've Got MaleIdentity CrisisThe FingerBurden of ProofPrimum Non NocereFelonious MonkChasing The BusStalkerCats in the CradleAnatomy of a LyeCross JurisdictionsThe Hunger Artist
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