Five students and five adults were killed on a tour bus that collided head-on with a big rig on Interstate 5 in Northern California.
California Highway Patrol dispatcher said the collision occurred when a southbound FedEx big rig towing two trailers crossed into the northbound lanes, sideswiping a car and colliding head-on with the tour bus, around 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
The 48 occupants of the bus included 44 students, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District. The students were scheduled to visit Humboldt State University in Arcata where they had been accepted or were considering attending the university.
According to the LAUSD, there were 19 students aboard the bus from 16 LAUSD schools — San Fernando, Grant, Dorsey, Fremont, City of Angels, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, Manual Arts, Banning, Carson, Chavez, Diego Rivera, Belmont, Wilson, Chatsworth, Jefferson and Middle College.
Another CHP official, agency spokeswoman Tracy Hoover, said 34 bus passengers have been hospitalized with injuries that include burns, contusions, lumps and pain. The CHP dispatcher said major injuries were classified as burns or broken bones, and half of the 34 hospitalized had injuries that met that description or worse.
The adults killed in the crash were the bus driver, the truck driver and the three chaperones accompanying Los Angeles-area high school seniors, according to the California Highway Patrol.
One of the chaperones was identified as Arthur Arzola, 26, of Rancho Cucamonga, who was a college recruiter. El Monte High School student Adrian Castro was also killed. Castro was a football player at the school.
Officials warned that identifying the people killed in Thursday night’s crash between the tour bus and a FedEx big rig will likely have to be done using dental and medical records, and potentially DNA, delaying the process.
They also said it could be months before the cause of the wreck is known.
During a briefing at the CHP’s Willows Area office, officials said victims had been taken to seven different hospitals following the crash. Nine people died at the scene, and one person who suffered severe burns died at a hospital.
Counselors were dispatched to 16 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses and other schools across the area Friday as authorities in Northern California scrambled to identify the 10 people who died.
The university issued its list of all schools represented on the bus, and posted it on the website www.humboldt.edu/emergency. The campuses included schools in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties.
A hotline for LAUSD parents concerned about students involved in last night’s bus crash has been established at (213) 241-3841.
Investigators said they would be working to determine if any mechanical failures contributed to the wreck, and would also be reviewing weather and road conditions at the time. They said it was unclear if the driver of the FedEx truck may have fallen asleep, or if there was a mechanical problem with the truck, or if another accident may have occurred that forced the truck across the freeway median.
Jonathan Gutierrez, a Banning High student who was aboard the bus, tweeted that he had sustained “bruised leg, eyebrow cut open, scratches all over my arm & all my stuff that I packed is burned. i’m beyond thankful that I’m still here.’”
Joyce Lopes, the Humboldt State vice president for administrative affairs, said the university had chartered three buses for the campus tour. One was for students from Fresno. The other two carried students from Los Angeles.
Lopes said the students had been assigned to buses “largely, but not entirely” on an alphabetical basis. Some students with names earlier in the alphabet had left Los Angeles on the second bus, she said, adding that the buses had been due to arrive at the university around 7 p.m. Thursday.
The second L.A. bus arrived safely, and counselors were made available for the students, Lopes said.
LAUSD spokesman Tommy Chang said the principals of the involved schools have been informed of developments.
The bus was owned by Silverado Stages of San Luis Obispo. A statement on the company’s website said it was helping authorities gather information regarding the accident.
“Our top priority is making sure the injured are being cared for,” the statement said.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were on sent to the site.
Humboldt State University said the prospective students were en route to a spring preview day scheduled—part of a two-day visit to the Arcata campus.
The students were participants in the university-funded Preview Plus program, which brings low-income and first-generation prospective students from the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas to the campus, according to Humboldt State.
Families of students who may have been affected were advised to contact university police at (707) 826-6327 for further information or guidance. The Red Cross has established a support site in Orland for victims of the crash at the Orland Veterans Memorial Hall.
The American Red Cross was assisting in the reunification of students and parents, and it appeared that the parents of some of the students had been re-united with their children.