Liquor store punished for role in Greyhound bus crash
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- New trouble is bubbling up from the investigation into last year's deadly Greyhound bus crash. A liquor store lost its license Wednesday for the part it played leading up to the crash.
Investigators say 18-year-old Sylvia Garay was driving drunk when she caused the chain-reaction collision that killed six people, including Garay herself. They say Garay got the alcohol from the A-1 Liquor Store on Shields and Maroa in Central Fresno.
The store got served with a notice Wednesday, revoking its liquor license. But there is something of a loophole, and it means the store could be selling liquor again in a matter of days.
Notice of suspension signs cut off liquor sales at A-1 Liquor Store effective immediately Wednesday. Investigators say A-1 is the starting point for a chain of events that led to this Greyhound bus crash that killed six people -- including Sylvia Garay, Vvanessa Gonzalez and Stephanie Cordoba.
Hours earlier, the underage Garay and Gonzalez walked into the liquor store with 21-year-old Michelle Cole.
"At the counter, Garay and Gonzalez placed the cans of Four Loko on the counter in front of Mohamed Alyafaie, who was the clerk at the time, and the co-owner," said Christine Weldon of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Investigators say a clerk at A-1 also sold alcohol to an underage decoy a month after Garay was blamed for the deadly crash. But a vendor at the store who wouldn't talk on camera and identified himself only as Josh says the store is being unfairly targeted.
"Obviously it's a little bit of a witch hunt because there are deaths involved and somebody has to be accountable," he said.
An Action News reporter questioned him about their responsibilities, though: "But they're obviously conscious of the fact that minors may come in with people of age because there are signs there now saying nobody accompanied by minors will be sold alcohol."
"He's conscious of that now after this obviously, but when it happened, ABC laws didn't require you to ID everybody in the store when you sell alcohol," Josh said.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has issued 40 accusations of sales to minors in Fresno in 2011. In most cases, the violators only pay a fine and never have their licenses suspended. But investigators say the punishment for A-1 Liquor Store was especially harsh because the consequences of its violation were so severe.
"Kids are buying alcohol in stores all across the state and the nation," Weldon said. "When you think about what the ramifications of what could happen, this is the worst thing you could anticipate could happen."
Action News talked to the man who applied for a transfer of A-1's liquor license almost a year and a half ago. Jasvinder Singh Bhangu expects to take over the business in 15 days and when he does, he'll be allowed to sell liquor immediately.
greyhound, fresno, fresno county, local, corin hoggard
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