ARCATA (CBS/AP) — High school students visiting Humboldt State University are returning to Southern California earlier than scheduled following a horrific bus crash that killed 10 people.
University officials say prospective students who participated in the Preview Plus program left Arcata on buses at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The admitted students had been scheduled for more orientation and campus activities, but the university decided to “get them back to their families early, given the emotional toll of the last two days.”
More than 500 admitted students participated in the campus tour program — despite Thursday afternoon’s crash on Interstate 5 in Orland, about 100 miles north of Sacramento.
Five students, three chaperones and two drivers were killed and dozens were injured when a FedEx tractor-trailor collided with the charter bus carrying the prospective students.
Dorsey High School student Melvin Harris was among those hurt, but had returned to his home in the Crenshaw District Saturday.
Harris spoke with CBS2’s Joy Benedict about the ordeal, and revealed he was sitting next to a fellow student who was among the missing and presumed dead.
“When it hit, I couldn’t really hear anything for a few seconds, and I saw I was bleeding,” he said.
He remembers bits and pieces, and could barely sit up during the interview, still sore with two staples in his head and small burns from the crash he wishes he could forget.
“I was sleeping and I woke up a few seconds before,” he said.
Harris was trapped inside the burning bus during the crash, and recalled being desperate to get out.
“We broke through the windows because that was the only way out. There was no emergency exit,” he said.
Melvin called his mother, Lisa Sutton, when he was able to get to a phone.
“I’m hearing glass and screaming. I hear people are dying…” she recalled.
Somewhere between the confusion and the crash, Melvin remembered his classmate and friend, Jennifer Bonilla.
“He kept mentioning Jenny. He kept saying, ‘My friend,'” Lisa said.
There were four students from Dorsey High School that made that trip up north.
Two of them were on another bus that did not crash. However, both Melvin and Jennifer were seated in the fourth row together, with Jennifer sitting next to the window.
“I was walking off the bus and I told her to follow me but didn’t know if she could hear me,” he said.
Melvin said he does not remember seeing Jennifer at all after the crash, and believes she is among the dead.
He said they were both interested in the environment and science, which attracted them to Humboldt State.
It was supposed to be Melvin’s first chance to see the school, his first college visit and the first college anyone has been accepted to in his family.
Although his thoughts are with Jennifer, his classmates and other students on the bus, he isn’t giving up his dream.
“I still want to go,” he said.
The Red Cross has set up a hotline at (800) 540-2000 for families affected by the crash. Callers will be connected to local Red Cross chapters where caseworkers will be available to meet families who may need assistance with travel or transportation expenses, as well as counseling and mental health support.
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