ORLAND, Calif. (CBSLA.com/AP) — Nine people were killed Thursday and dozens more injured in a fiery crash between a FedEx delivery truck and a charter bus carrying Southland high school students in Northern California, authorities said.
California Highway Patrol dispatchers said the drivers of the truck and bus were among the dead along with seven other people who were riding on the bus. There are 10 people who haven’t been located, officials said.
The crash happened a little after 5:30 p.m. on the 5 Freeway near Orland, a small city about an hour-and-a-half north of Sacramento.
The bus was one of three that the admissions office at Humboldt State University had chartered to bring students from Southern California up to tour the Arcata campus, Humboldt’s Vice President of Administrative Affairs Joyce Lopes said.
Several of the students on the three buses were enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Superintendent John Deasy told CBS2/KCAL9. They were part of a trip geared towards disadvantaged teens who would be the first in their family to attend college. Some of the students are enrolled at Robert F. Kennedy High School, in Koreatown, and at Manuel Arts High School, Deasy said.
It’s not yet known whether any students were among those killed.
“We were deeply saddened to learn about the tragic accident that took place earlier today near Humboldt State University. At this time, we do not know how many L.A. Unified students were victims of the crash,” Deasy said in a statement. “We are providing support at the site. We will be providing support at District schools tomorrow morning.”
Humboldt State University police have set up an information line for parents and family at (707) 826-6327.
“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,” Humboldt State’s President Rollin Richmond said.
Gov. Jerry Brown expressed his condolences to the families of those killed in a statement:
“Anne and I extend our heartfelt and deep sympathies to the families, friends and loved ones of those who died in the tragic accident near Orland this evening. As we mourn the loss of those who died, we join all Californians in expressing our gratitude for the tireless work of the Red Cross and emergency personnel who responded bravely to this terrible tragedy.”
A CHP dispatcher says the bus and truck were on opposite sides of the freeway when the truck crossed a grass median and slammed into the bus, causing an explosion and fire.
Investigators say the truck driver might have been trying to avoid a passenger car that was also involved in the crash, which shut down north- and south-bound traffic on the freeway.
Bonnie Kourvelas, a FedEx spokeswoman, said in a statement Thursday night: “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in the tragic accident on I-5 in California. We are cooperating fully with authorities as they investigate.”
A first responder who helped set up a triage at the scene said 36 or 37 people received injuries ranging from severe to minor burns, broken legs and 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,” he said.
Wyman said when he drove a water truck to the highway, both the bus and truck were fully engulfed in flames, sending thick, dark smoke into the air.
He said he was first focused on putting out the fire, and once it was under control he saw dozens of people walking wounded.
“The first victim that was taken out of the bus was severely burned,” Wyman said.
Five people were taken to Enloe Medical Center in Chico with minor to moderate injuries; four more were on the way, hospital spokeswoman Christina Chavira said.
Another five were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Redding in fair condition.
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