At least 10 people were killed and dozens more were injured after a bus carrying high school students collided with a FedEx semi-truck on Interstate 5 in Northern California on Thursday evening, authorities said.
The bus was carrying at least 40 students from the Los Angeles area who were visiting colleges in Northern California when it was hit by a FedEx truck north of Orland, Calif., in Glenn County, about 100 miles north of Sacramento, KRCR-TV reported.
Steven Clavijo, an 18-year-old senior at West Ranch High in Santa Clarita said he was trying to nap when he felt the bus begin to move from left to right and then he heard a loud boom.
“We knew we were in major trouble,” he said.
Many of the students escaped through a window that someone had kicked open, Clavijo said, and ran to the other side of Interstate 5 before the bus burst into flames, The Associated Press reported.
Nine people from the bus — the driver, three chaperones and five students — and the FedEx driver were killed, the California Highway Patrol told The Associated Press. Their identities were not immediately released.
Dispatchers received a call about the crash at 5:41 Pacific Time and was told that the truck was heading south when it crossed over a grass median and hit the northbound bus.
Witness Marc Smutny, 27, told the Los Angeles Times he was doing landscape work nearby when he heard the blasts. Then he saw flames rising from the FedEx truck and the bus.
“It was insane. The bus was engulfed in flames, smoke in and out of the front,” he told the newspaper. “The bus looked like it took most of the hit. … It was horrible.”
Dispatcher Curtis Pahlka said it’s wasn’t yet clear what caused the accident, which also involved a Nissan Altima, the AP reported, but authorities said the truck driver may have been trying to avoid the passenger car. No one in the car was injured.
A first responder who helped set up a triage at the scene told the AP that 36 or 37 people had injuries including burns, broken legs, broken noses and head lacerations.
“The victims were teenage kids. A lot of them were freaked out. They were shocked. They still couldn’t grasp what happened,” Jason Wyman with the Orland Volunteer Fire Department said. “You hear about it in the news, but you never seen anything like that.”
The bus was one of two that the admissions office at Humboldt State University had chartered to bring prospective students from Southern California up to tour the Arcata campus, Humboldt’s Vice President of Administrative Affairs Joyce Lopes said.
Humboldt State President Rollin Richmond said in a statement:
Humboldt State University is deeply saddened by a tragic accident that occurred earlier this evening involving a charter bus filled with prospective students. They were on their way to visit campus for the April 11 Spring Preview event.
Our hearts go out to those who have been affected, and we are here to support them, and their families, in any way possible.
The bus was travelling on Interstate 5 near Orland when it collided with a FedEx truck. We are in contact with law enforcement in the area, and are being told of multiple injuries.
Families of students who may have been affected may contact University Police for more information or guidance at (707) 826-5555.
Rollin C. Richmond