Ten People Tragically Killed, Including Five High School Students After A Truck Collided With Their Chartered Bus On A California Highway
We're speechless. This story. Such an awful, awful tragedy.
Around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday a FedEx tractor trailer collided with a chartered tour bus filled with high school students on Interstate 5 near Orland, Glenn County in California.
Nineteen high school students were on the bus according to Los Angeles Unified officials.
The FedEx truck was on the other side of the highway and crossed the grassy median before slamming into the bus. The impact immediately resulted in both vehicles bursting into flames, and left ten people dead including five high school students.
Helpless witnesses watched the flames engulf both vehicles with dozens of victims trapped inside.
One witness described a victim's cries for help. They said:
"It was like a man on fire."
Here's what another witness said:
“It was insane. The bus was engulfed in flames, smoke in and out of the front. The bus looked like it took most of the hit. … The flames were completely engulfing both. It was horrible. Like basically, it looked like a FedEx truck took a bad left turn and hit the tour bus head-on. We thought it was a propane fire.”
The result of the collision and subsequent explosion left the driver of the FedEx truck dead, the driver of the tour bus dead, the deaths of three adult chaperons, the deaths of five high school students, and more than 30 people injured.
The destination of the bus was the university Humboldt State where the students were to participate in a spring break tour of the campus. The president of the school said in a statement:
"Our hearts go out to those who have been affected, and we are here to support them, and their families, in any way possible."
Here's what the governor of California Edmund Brown Jr said:
"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."
One student, Jonathan Gutierrez, who was on the bus when it went up in flames describes the moment when he realized he couldn't breathe from the smoke, that the fire in the front of the bus was quickly making its way towards him, and how his instincts took over, and saved his life.
"It was hard to breathe in there, that is when I started panicking. The smoke was everywhere like you could not see where you were going. The window to the floor down, that is like a long jump and people were just panicking, so they were like throwing themselves out the window and I guess when I jumped out the window I fell on my leg and now I can hardly walk … but I am alive and that is what counts."
Many other students were able to escape out of the windows and the emergency back door, but some were injured, and at least one person suffered severe burns — although whether or not that was a student is unclear.
Many others suffered “cuts, scrapes, minor burns and contusions”.
When the Orland Volunteer Fire Department arrived, the scene was one of pandemonium. One volunteer firefighter said:
"The victims were teenage kids. A lot of them were freaked out. They were shocked. They still couldn't grasp what happened."
It's still unclear what caused the FedEx tractor trailer to cross the grassy median of the highway, and collide with the chartered tour bus.
Police are keeping the identity of the deceased victims private, but the process of pinpointing who was on the bus has been incredibly difficult. One of the reasons why that is because the students were from multiple districts and schools.
Police have narrowed down the list to Chatsworth charter, Middle College, San Fernando, Dorsey, John C. Fremont, City of Angels School, Robert F. Kennedy, Manual Arts, Banning, Carson and the Diego Rivera Learning Complex.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Unified School District expressed frustration with the lengthy process of determining which students were on the bus. The spokesperson said:
“I don’t what’s taking so long. We thought we would have this information by now.”
It's beyond sad.
[Image via AP Images.]