Maria De Jesus Ortiz Velasquez had made the bus trip from her home in Salinas, California, to Tijuana, Mexico, to visit two of her six children several times in the past.
On the other trips though, her relatives had accompanied the 75-year-old woman on the seven-hour trek, her grandson Joel Ibarra told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday.
But this trip was a little different. For the first time, Ortiz made the trip alone.
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And for the first time, she never came back.
Ortiz was one of two passengers killed early Tuesday morning when the Greyhound bus she was on tipped onto its side on U.S. Highway 101 at the state Route 85 connector in South San Jose.
"She’d never done the trip on her own before," Ibarra said. "She wanted to stay a few days longer. And then, the worst happened."
The bus driver lost control of the vehicle during the rainy commute and flipped the passenger bus onto its side, tying up traffic until the evening hours and raising questions about driver safety and working conditions.
The driver, whom the California Highway Patrol identified as Gary Bonslater, 58, of Victorville, told investigators he had been "fatigued," a theme the driver’s union said is all too common for its 200,000 members. State and federal investigators are conducting parallel inquiries into exactly what happened.
The other passenger killed was identified Wednesday morning by the Santa Clara County Coroner as 51-year-old Fely Olivera of San Francisco. Her son, Antonio Olivera, told The Associated Press his mother was returning home to San Francisco from Los Angeles, where she had visited his two brothers.
Efforts to reach Bonslater on Wednesday were unsuccessful. But Ibarra said he is not angry with the driver.
"Things happen," Ibarra said.
Still, he said, if the driver knew he was tired, "he should have said something. He’s got the full responsibility of carrying all those passengers."
There are still things that are unsettling for Ibarra and his family. He said his grandmother’s body has not been yet returned, and relatives don't know when they can hold a funeral for the family matriarch. He said no one from the family has been called to physically see her body.
For now, Ortiz's relatives are left mourning a woman the neighborhood kids called "Grandma" and who was the proud owner of a new puppy she adored.
"She was loved," Ibarra said. "Her hugs were the warmest. She gave the best hugs ever."
Despite her age, Ibarra said his grandmother was "super healthy" and was expected to live much longer. He said Ortiz's father lived past 100 years old.
"We knew we should have had her longer," Ibarra said.