Family of bus driver in Orland crash speaks about their heroic mother

SACRAMENTO - Jordan and Jordayna Lealao-Taiao believe there wasn't a better bus driver than their mother Tala.

She had been doing it for as long as they can remember.

"My mom actually used to drive the bus for me to go to school when I was little," Jordan Lealai-Taiao said.

His mother Tala was on the road April 10, Jordan Lealai-Taiao's 25th birthday. His sister Jordayna Lealai-Taiao was heading to celebrate with the rest of the family when she got a phone call from the bus company.

"[The bus dispatcher] just told me that he wasn't a hundred percent [sure] if that was my mother or not [driving the bus]," Jordayna Lealai-Taiao said.

But Jordayna Lealai-Taiao knew, and she had to make the most difficult phone call of her life – to her big brother.

"I could hardly get a clear message from my sister because of how bad she sounded when she called me," Jordan Lealai-Taiao said about that phone call.

Tala was driving the tour bus that was hit head on by a FedEx semi-truck on Interstate 5, near Orland, Calif. on April 10. The FedEx driver, Tala and eight others on the tour bus were killed in the crash.

The hours and days since that night have been a whirlwind for the family. But out of their grief has come a sense of comfort – from hearing the stories of survivors and feeling the love of total strangers.

"[The survivors say] that if it wasn't for my mom, they wouldn't be here," Jordayna Lealai-Taiao said. "They did express to us that my mom was a hero."

That's how the siblings remember their mother. The decorated driver who was selected to drive the Jamaican bobsled team in the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The woman who cared more about her family and others than she cared about herself.

The driver whose split-second decisions may have saved dozens of lives.

"From what it looks like in the investigation that's going on, and from what we hear and see, my mom brought that impact onto her side [of the bus]," Jordan Lealai-Taiao said.


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