Some SoCal Students Still Unaccounted For Following Deadly NorCal Bus Crash
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Some Southland students are still unaccounted for following Thursday’s deadly bus crash in Northern California.
Ten people were killed and dozens were injured when a FedEx big rig collided with a tour bus around 5:30 p.m. on Interstate 5 near the town of Orland. The youth were scheduled to visit Humboldt State University in Arcata.
The 48 occupants of the bus included 44 students.
KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen reported that Ismael Jimenez and Denise Gomez from Animo Charter High School in Inglewood were among the missing.
Roger Flores, Gomez’s former soccer coach, said he’s been speaking with the student’s relatives.
“Great kid, sharp, energetic. Like I said, she played on the soccer team. Always smiling and a little quiet, but she was a happy child. I just know she was looking forward to go out and do her college trips,” he said.
Jorge Camacho graduated from Animo Charter last year. He stopped by his alma mater Friday afternoon out of respect for his friends.
“It kinda hits home because like, we’re a family here at Animo. As an Animo family, we’re all grieving together. It’s kinda hard for us all at the moment,” he said.
The parents of Jimenez and Gomez have traveled up north to try and find their children.
Camacho said, “It’s kind of like, hurtful to not hear from them every minute. Their families, I can feel what they’re going through. It’s really tragic to see their families took the time to go up there to see if they can find them or not and not hearing back from them is like hurtful for them.”
Four students from Dorsey High School were on the trip. Melvin Harris, 18, along with his friend, Jennifer Bonilla, were on the bus that crashed.
Harris said he was sleeping when the collision happened, so he had to break a window to jump out.
“I looked back and I saw a whole bunch of other kids breaking windows and falling on top of each other trying to get out, and I was also trying to look for my friend,” he told KCAL9’s Brittney Hopper via phone.
Bonilla, however, still hasn’t been found.
“I hope that she’s okay, and I hope her family is okay, too,” Harris said.
Bonilla’s friends are now left to hope for the best.
“When I found out my friend Melvin was there, he was panicking. He didn’t see Jennifer come out of the bus. From there, I tried everything to find out what happened,” a student said.
“I’m worried and sad. I really just want to find out if she’s okay and where she’s at,” Sabrina Garcia said.
At El Monte High School, students appeared to already be mourning senior Adrian Castro, even though he is still considered to be missing.
“He was a real, down-to-earth kid. He was devoted. He was always on top of his stuff. That’s why he was going to Humboldt,” friend Nathaniel Medina said.
Friends said Castro played cornerback for the school’s football team this year.
“He was very popular. He was a football player. He was smart, mature, very intelligent,” student Mary Jane Arriaga said.
El Monte Unified School District Superintendent Nick Salerno admits it’s likely Castro is among the dead.
“As a dad myself, it’s devastating. You’re worried and you’re anxious and part of the unknown makes it worse,” Salerno said.
KCAL9’s Cristy Fajardo reported that two students from Norte Vista High School in Riverside, identical twins Marisa and Marisol Serrato, were on the school trip.
Marisa was initially missing, but her family later confirmed that she had passed away.
Earlier in the day, classmate Janeth De la Cruz, who was supposed to visit Humboldt State but backed out at the last minute because the school’s prom is scheduled for Friday night, said Marisol was on a separate bus.
“They are very close and very attached. So I cannot even imagine how Marisol must be feeling without knowing anything about her sister,” De la Cruz said.
By all accounts, the twins are good students, on the honor role, involved in their church and in the community.
Neighbors said Marisol was accepted at Humboldt State and Marisa was waitlisted, but decided to join her sister in checking out the campus.
“I’m hoping that everyone that went on the trip is okay. Hope to see all of them back,” De la Cruz said.