Undocumented Immigrants On Fatal Bus Crash Headed To Work For Arkansas Legislator

Aug 30, 2016

State Rep. Dave Wallace (R-Leachville).
Credit arkansashouse.org

A bus fatally crashed in Louisiana this weekend while transporting immigrants in the country illegally to a job center owned by a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives.

State Representative Dave Wallace of Leachville, in extreme northeast Arkansas, is a part-owner of the labor supply company Wallace, Rush, Schmidt Inc. WRS was seeking laborers to work on projects in flood ravaged Baton Rouge. 40-plus people were injured and two died on Sunday when the bus, driven by an unlicensed Denis Amaya Rodriguez, crashed on Interstate 10. A Louisiana fire chief is among the deceased.

The Republican legislator referred KUAR’s inquiries to Louisiana-based attorney Jesse Wimberley. While the workers were headed to a WRS center in Baton Rouge, Wimberley maintains those on the bus were not employees at the time of the crash.

“The bus was chartered by a fellow named Edgar Rudda who is a head hunter who tries to bring a potential labor pool for these temporary employment services like WRS,” he says. “The bus was going to bring a potential group of potential employees to WRS’s facility in Baton Rouge where they’d be checked out for paperwork, for legality, etc. and be put to work if they could.”

He says Rudda is not an employee of WRS but he thinks “they have used [him] in the past to round up some potential laborers for them.”

Wimberley says the driver was not employed by WRS but by the bus company. The Arkansas Times notes a report from WWL-TV in Louisiana says Mr. Rodriguez was not an employee of the bus service Kristina’s Transportation but had been working with Mr. Rouda and WRS for the past year.

Sources tell WWL-TV that the driver of the bus, Denis Amaya Rodriguez of Honduras, had been doing work for the man named Edgar and had been doing construction jobs over the last year for Schmidt’s company. They said Amaya was just one of several undocumented workers on that regular work crew and was not an experienced bus driver.

Rep. Wallace is running for state Senate in the fall against Democratic incumbent David Burnett of Osceola. 

The story, particularly the angle that an undocumented immigrant was driving the bus, has gained attention from multiple national media outlets like Fox News, NBC, and CNN.