Emergency services at the crash scene. Photo Twitter
Ten people were killed, half of them high school
students, when a truck slammed into a tour bus full of college
hopefuls heading for a campus tour in northern California,
Five students, three chaperones and the drivers of the bus
and FedEx truck were killed, according to the California
Highway Patrol and Humboldt State University, which was to
host the students' visit.
"All of a sudden I heard people screaming," Jonathan
Gutierrez, 17, told NBC's "Today" show. He had been asleep
before the impact, he said.
Gutierrez, who suffered facial cuts, said the aisle of the
bus filled with smoke and students broke windows to escape.
"It was a very surreal moment," he said.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in
Southern California, said 19 students from 16 of its high
schools were on the bus tour headed to Humboldt State, but
could not say whether any of the students who died were
students at district schools.
Among the dead was a Humboldt State recruiter, 26-year-old
Arthur Arzola, who worked for the university out of the
Southern California community of Rancho Cucamonga, the
Sacramento County Coroner said on Friday morning.
The school's website names Arzola as a counselor and
recruiter. In a biography on the site, Arzola characterized
himself as hard-working, compassionate and friendly, and
described the university as offering "incredible
opportunities that change the world for the better."
More than 30 people were hurt after the driver of the FedEx
truck lost control, jumped a divider on Interstate 5,
side-swiped a car and smashed head-on into the bus on
Thursday evening, CHP spokeswoman Tracy Hoover said.
"They are traumatized, absolutely," Hoover said of the
injured. "Most of them have scratches, cuts, burns,
contusions and lacerations - a magnitude of injuries."
About 34 people were taken by air and land ambulances to area
hospitals in varying conditions, police said. No one in the
car that was side-swiped was killed, though the driver was
sent to hospital with unspecified injuries.
The highway was closed in both directions and was not
expected to reopen until early Friday.
Apart from the driver, the bus was carrying between 44 and 48
students and several chaperones to the university for a
campus tour, CHP spokeswoman Lacey Heitman said.
The crash took place near the city of Orland, 95 miles (150
km) north of Sacramento.
The students, traveling from Los Angeles-area high schools,
were part of a program that Humboldt State said "brings
low-income and first-generation prospective college students
from the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas to HSU's
Pictures from the scene showed the bus reduced to a
burned-out chassis resting sideways across the highway.
Yellow tarps were draped over what appeared to be bodies in
'HARDLY ANYTHING LEFT'
Hoover described hunks of twisted metal and broken glass and
said flames had roared through the vehicles.
"The big rig and the bus were both engulfed in flames. You
are talking about two vehicles that are destroyed. There is
hardly anything left of the truck," Hoover said.
Two other charter buses that were also carrying students to
Humboldt - one from the Los Angeles area and one from the
Fresno area - had arrived safely, the university said.
Bonnie Kourvelas, a spokeswoman for FedEx Corp, said the
company was aware that one of its trucks was involved in the
crash and is "cooperating fully with authorities."
Some students were from Manual Arts Senior High School,
Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools and Banning High School,
said Los Angeles Unified School District spokesman Tom
Humboldt State President Rollin Richmond said students from
southern California were to attend a spring preview event on
"Our hearts go out to those who have been affected, and we
are here to support them, and their families, in any way
possible," he said in a written statement.