ORLAND, Calif. — Los Angeles Unified officials said Friday that 19 of its students were aboard the bus that collided with a FedEx freight truck in Northern California, killing at least 10.
Officials have not released the identities of those killed in the fiery crash, which occurred shortly after 5:30 p.m. Thursday when the FedEx truck crossed a grassy median on Interstate 5 and slammed into the bus packed with students en route to Humboldt State University.
The victims included five students, three adult chaperons, the driver of the truck and the driver of the bus, a California Highway Patrol dispatcher told The Times.
CHP officer Tracy Hoover estimated that more than 30 people were hurt. At least one person suffered from “severe burns “ while others had “cuts, scrapes, minor burns and contusions,” she said.
The impact, which witnesses said sounded like a series of explosions, caused both vehicles to burst into flames. The fireball and towering black smoke were captured by the cellphone cameras of others in nearby cars.
Dorsey Griffith, a spokeswoman for UC Davis Medical Center, said one patient who was admitted to the burn unit died late Thursday night. The CHP dispatcher confirmed the 10th fatality occurred at the medical center. Three buses had been chartered for the 12-hour ride, which was for Los Angeles-area students accepted to the university.
Complicating the effort to confirm who was in which bus was the fact that the students came from multiple schools and districts, officials said. In the greater Los Angeles area, students on the trip hailed from the following high schools: Chatsworth charter, Thomas Jefferson, Middle College, San Fernando, Ulysses S. Grant, Dorsey, John C. Fremont, City of Angels School, Robert F. Kennedy, Manual Arts, Banning, Carson and the Diego Rivera Learning Complex.
The district did not organize the field trip and was relying on Humboldt State, the CHP and other agencies for information, said Gayle Pollard-Terry, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Other school districts that may have had students on the buses could not immediately be confirmed. “I don’t what’s taking so long,” she said. “We thought we would have this information by now.”
CHP Officer Lacey Heitman said investigators will finish their initial work at the scene of the crash Friday morning, with tow trucks scheduled to begin clearing the wreckage by 10 a.m. to allow for the reopening of the northbound lanes of Interstate 5.
An investigation team from the National Transportation Safety Board was not expected to arrive in Orland until around noon, she added. Meanwhile, the CHP was scheduled to hold a news conference at 10 a.m.
Company officials confirmed in statements that the bus was operated by Silverado Stages and the truck by FedEx. In the wake of the crash, uninjured students were brought to the Veterans Memorial Hall in Orland, where the Red Cross set up a shelter.
Some students escaped the burning bus through an emergency exit, but others smashed windows. Among them was Jonathan Gutierrez, 17, who fell to the pavement after climbing out.
Wearing only his socks — he had taken off his shoes while trying to fall asleep — he ran across the highway with other students.
“They were just yelling, ‘Oh my God, what just happened?'” Gutierrez said. “They were crying.”
He suffered a gash over his right eyebrow when he hit the plastic tray in the back of the seat in front of him after being hurled forward upon impact.
Early Friday, a FedEx spokeswoman confirmed that a company “freight truck” was involved in the collision. In a statement, FedEx said, “We are cooperating fully with the authorities as they investigate.”
In a statement, Silverado Stages officials said they were “helping the authorities in gathering information regarding the tragic accident that occurred on Thursday evening. Our top priority is making sure that the injured are being cared for. Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured, their families and everyone affected by this accident.” Humboldt State officials said the charter bus was bringing a group of prospective students to the campus’ April 12 spring preview day.
University officials made use of the school’s website to report what they knew. An emergency information line for the Humboldt State University Police was made available to family members seeking their loved ones, at (707) 826-6327.
Times staff writers Rong-Gong Lin II and Matt Stevens contributed to this report. St. John and Megerian reported from Orland, and Blume reported from Los Angeles.