A FedEx tractor-trailer crossed over a grassy median on a Northern California freeway and slammed into a bus carrying between 44 and 48 high school students in a fiery crash that left 10 people dead near Orland, authorities said. The bus included students from the Los Angeles Unified School District, who were on their way to tour Humboldt State.
- 7:02 p.m. Riverside student remains missing
- 6:45 p.m. Student describes kicking open bus window and escaping
- 6:15 p.m. National Transportation Safety Board investigating crash factors
- 5:37 p.m. Inglewood students among missing
- 4:45 p.m. 'A scar on the landscape that is unmistakable'
- 2:45 p.m. South LA school reacts to students involved in crash
- 2:24 p.m. El Monte High School student appears to be victim
- 12:45 p.m. Family confirms HSU chaperone died in crash
- 12:26 p.m. Mayor Garcetti, LAUSD head outline schools involved in crash
- 11:54 a.m. Officials plan exhaustive investigation into crash
- 8:54 a.m. Identity confirmed of counselor killed in tour bus crash
- 8:34 a.m. Former chaperone speaks about program students were a part of
- 8:15 a.m. Mother speaks on tour bus crash that left one twin girl's condition unknown
- 7:50 a.m. Tour bus that crashed was from LA; other 2 buses made it
- 7:41 a.m. Students headed to Humboldt State program for prospective attendees
- 6:53 a.m. LAUSD superintendent issues statement, update
- Student: 'We knew we were in major trouble'
Four students from Riverside were on the buses heading up to Humboldt State University for a college visit. Three of them were on the bus that crashed. One of them remains missing.
Twins Marisol and Marisa Serrato – seniors at Norte Vista High School -- were on two different buses. Marisa was on the bus that crashed and remains missing. A third student from Norte Vista is in the hospital. And a fourth student from Riverside -- a La Sierra high school student -- was treated and released from the hospital.
Norte Vista high school was relatively quiet Friday afternoon. Most students were sent home early for a previously planned half day. Tonight is prom night for seniors. Several students described it as a quiet, depressing day on campus. Earlier Friday teachers told students about the bus crash. Students tell KPCC their teacher was holding back tears as she conveyed the news.
Parents picking up their kids this afternoon and several students said they were sending out prayers to family members of the students in the bus crash.
Edwardo Giron came to pick up his son, a freshman. “God bless the families and the people who were in there,” he said. “This is really sad. You never know. We worry about our kids too.”
-- Shirley Jahad, KPCC
Harley Hoyt kicked out the emergency window of the bus after it burst into flames. He was sitting on the driver's side of the bus, near the back.
The El Cajon 18-year-old was the first one to get out of the bus and other kids tumbled out on top of him. He is a senior at Valhalla High School and spoke to KPCC from the airport in Chico where he was waiting for his return flight to San Diego. His parents flew there on Friday to pick him up.
Here are excerpts from his interview:
We were just riding on the bus, we were cruising down there and I had my headphones on and everyone just started screaming really loud and I was like, ‘What the heck is going on?’
I looked up and right then and there the bus driver had slammed on the brakes and I looked up and saw this Fed Ex truck come all the way across the center divide and it hit us head on. The front of the bus burst into flames, smoke was everywhere. Everything was crazy, everyone was screaming. I knew the people in the front of the bus were done, like, on impact.
Hoyt had noticed earlier in the day that he was sitting near the emergency window exit. It stood out to him because earlier that day the bus had been delayed by a minor traffic accident with a car after picking up the students at Union Station.
He went for the window almost immediately.
It was literally after we hit, I recovered back in my seat, I looked to my left, the FedEx bus was on fire, our bus was on fire, I thought I was going to die, I thought we could blow up at any second.
Right next to me was the emergency exit window. I pulled up the lever and pushed it up right away. I kicked out the window. I was the first one out and I fell on the ground and I scraped up all my arm, knee, my hands, I got glass in my hands and stuff. Someone landed on top of me and really hurt my back.
The survivors ran away from the bus as fast as they could, crossing over to the other side of the highway.
Everyone was bloody, everyone was beat up, people with broken arms and people had gouges in their head and everything, a bunch of concussions.
People were just like, some were speechless, some crying and some screaming. It was crazy to see that, it was just utter chaos.
Hoyt had a chance to talk with Michael Myvett, the counselor and chaperone on the bus who died.
The counselor (Michael) he was talking to us the whole time. He was having a great time. He was the life of the party. It was just a fun bus. … He was chatting everyone up, going up and down the aisles, didn’t skip one person. He was jumping around, asking everyone questions, showing everyone his X-men tattoos.
Harley also spent time with Adrian Castro, the El Monte High School football player who has been confirmed dead. The guys met on the bus and sat near one another in the back. They spent the day chatting and ate lunch together. Just before the crash Adrian went up to the front of the bus to play music through the auxiliary system, said Hoyt.
Harley didn’t see Adrian again.
“He was excited about Humboldt, I think he was saying something about other colleges, he wrestled as well, he was a cool dude," said Hoyt.
Hoyt wants to thank all the medical providers and first responders as well as the Red Cross and others who helped the students.
“I’m speechless at this point. Blessed is an understatement. I’m very grateful that I’m alive and I got to see my whole family today. I could have been dead.”
-- Elizabeth Aguilera, KPCC
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a number of factors that could have contributed to Thursday night’s bus crash, NTSB official Mark Rosekind said at a televised news conference at 5 p.m. Friday.
It is “too early to determine” why the FedEx truck driver crossed the median before the crash, said Rosekind, but NTSB is investigating factors such as the driver’s work-rest schedule and training as well as vehicle inspections and maintenance.
Toxicology and blood will also be taken for the drivers, which is standard.
Environmental factors like design of freeway will also be taken into account, said Rosekind.
NTSB has a variety of recommendations for in-vehicle technology that monitors vehicles like the bus and FedEx truck. The extent to which the truck and bus have that technology is being investigated.
Also under investigation is whether the bus and truck companies had implemented NTSB recommendations for fire and crash safety, including the ability of passengers to escape in the event of a crash.
-- Jessica Hamlin, KPCC
Gabriel Sanchez, spokesman for Green Dot Charter schools, confirms that two students from Animo Charter High school in Inglewood are among the missing.
Both students, Denise Gomez and Ismael Jimenez, are seniors and not related. Parents are in touch with authorities investigating the crash and are declining media requests at this time.
-- Kristen Muller, KPCC
The crash on I-5 left "a scar on the landscape that is unmistakable" on the side of the road that was "charred by the intense heat of the fire," said Patrick Healy, a reporter with KPCC media partner NBC-L.A.
Healy, who is reporting at the scene of the crash, said that shortly before noon the investigators completed their on-scene investigation. They've removed what was left of the charred FedEx truck and the big rig and shipped that to another location where they can examine pieces more carefully and try to determine if there were mechanical issues.
Healy told KPCC anchor Nick Roman that the crash reminded of a story he covered in the 90s when there were a number of bad accidents on the 118 freeway in Chatsworth due to vehicles crossing the center divide.
"Ultimately that led Caltrans to put a center median, a barrier, there to prevent this kind of accident from happening," he said. — Nick Roman, KPCC
At Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles cafeteria workers and a student said that news of the bus crash had spread throughout the school and was on the minds of many.
The school is home to at least one of the 19 Los Angeles Unified students involved in the bus crash.
High School student Rosibeth Cuevas posted a photo of herself on Facebook that appears to have been removed - it showed scrapes and bruises on her face following the crash.
The school's principal Robert Whitman declined to comment and would not allow KPCC on campus.
Emily Santiago, a tenth grader at the school, spoke to KPCC's Mary Plummer off campus. Santiago said students were asking questions about the crash throughout the day. Her second period homeroom teacher told the class that one student had been injured, but was OK.
"People were surprised," she said, adding that she was thinking about how the students had been accepted to college. "They worked really hard for it. For this to happen to them is pretty sad."
— Mary Plummer, KPCC
El Monte High School senior Yaritza Villalobos took this picture of chalk-tributes to student Adrian Castro. Castro has not been confirmed dead in the bus crash.
According to school officials, one of the five dead students appears to have come from El Monte High School– and another student from Norte Vista High School in Riverside is feared dead; she was on the bus that crashed and is still missing.
Adrian Castro was on El Monte High School's football team. Senior Yaritza Villalobos said the students were told in the morning over the school PA that he had died in the crash.
"The principal, she wanted to cry when she announced it,” said Yaritza Villalobos, a senior at the school.
School district Superintendent Nick Salerno said the principal talked to Castro’s family. The parents are headed north and were asked to bring dental records.
Villalobos, who knew Castro, said students drew a memorial in chalk and the mood on campus was dim.
“Many others were like crying and there was people hugging and comforting each other,” 11th grader Oscar de la Luz said.
“We’re going to miss him dearly,” football coach Gilbert Garcia said Friday.
In Riverside, officials with the Alvord Unified school district said Norte Vista High School student Marisa Serrato was on the bus that crashed and is still missing. — Adolfo Guzman Lopez, KPCC
Multiple family members have confirmed to KPCC that chaperone Michael Myvett died in the crash. His family said authorities called Myvett's mother this morning to report he was among those who perished.
Coroner's officials said they will be using dental and medical records to positively identify the victims who died in the crash. Myvett's cousin, Trinice Hayes Sampson, says officials asked the family for dental records.
A fundraising page has been set up for Myvett's family through GoFundMe.
"He was the most lovable teddy bear that you'd ever want to meet," Myvett's grandmother Debra Loyd told KPCC. "He always had a smile. He always spoke politely. I taught him to say yes ma'am, no ma'am and words could not describe...everybody loves Michael."
College friend Stephanie Haller recalled talking to Myvett about taking engagement photos of him and his fiancee, who got engaged in Paris on Christmas Day.
"They wanted to go back to Humboldt and just take pictures kind of all around their favorite joints and like food places and beaches and basically revisit all the really really important things to them that was a part of their relationship and friendship that started in Humboldt," Haller told KPCC.
The California Highway Patrol told KPCC that they are not releasing names of victims until all notifications have been made to family members. — Ashley Bailey & Jessica Hamlin, KPCC
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy spoke at a noon press conference on the tour bus crash that involved 19 LAUSD students.
Deasy confirmed that there were 48 riders on one of the buses, with 31 taken to a variety of area hospitals. He said that LAUSD would be assisting parents who don't have the means to travel to see their children and that every student would be met by administrators and their parents or guardian.
"A city mourns today," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said at the press conference.
Garcetti cited his Thursday state of the city address, which came an hour before the news of the crash. He said that his line from the speech saying that children are not just the responsibility of the school district wasn't just a line, but that it was a "promise" and a "covenant."
"It will be time before we know the status of every student," Deasy said. He added that they wouldn't be releasing the condition of students before their parents are informed.
Deasy named these schools as having students who were on the trip: Alliance Judy Burton, Alliance Media Arts, Green Dot Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School, Banning High School, Carson High School, Chatsworth High School, Cesar Chavez School for Social Justice, Dorsey High School, Fremont High School, Grant High School, Manual High School, Middle College High School, RFK High School and Wilson High School.
Deasy thanked Garcetti for travel assistance to get people to Northern California.
"We know that there were hopes and dreams on that bus," said LAUSD Board member Steve Zimmer at the press conference.
Deasy gave an LAUSD hotline that those needing support can call: (213) 241-3841.
— Mike Roe, KPCC
The vehicles were already engulfed in flames when authorities arrived at the scene, California Highway Patrol Lt. Bruce Carpenter said at a morning CHP news conference.
Nine people were confirmed dead at the scene. Another died after being taken to the University of California Davis Medical Center with severe burns, Carpenter said. Injuries ranged from minor to critical.
Carpenter said that witnesses reported seeing flames at the front of the bus as soon as the crash occurred, and that one person was seen fleeing the bus on fire. That person was the one who later died at UC Davis Medical Center, Carpenter said.
"This was a horrific collision. The impact was heard throughout the communities," Sheriff Larry Jones said at the press conference. He said he spoke with people up to a quarter mile away that heard the impact. "Right after that impact, there was a tremendous fire with very high temperatures."
Victims' bodies were being taken to an examination facility in Butte County, Undersheriff Richard Warren said, adding that examinations would begin as soon as possible, with investigators working through the weekend. He said that most of the bodies suffered burns, making identifying them much more difficult.
Investigators will have to use medical and dental records to help identify those who've died, Warren said. If they're unable to do that, they will use DNA identification. That will likely mean the investigation will take much longer, Warren said. He added that they were seeking to treat the victims with dignity while getting information to the families as soon as possible.
The majority of the dead were found in the front of the bus or on the ground in front of the bus, with two found in the middle of the bus, CHP Chief Ruben Leal said. He added that the deaths appeared to be "very immediate."
The southbound lanes of the highway had been reopened, but the northbound lanes remained closed, Carpenter said. They may reopen by noon. The vehicles had either been removed or were in the process of being removed, but evidence was still being processed at the scene.
The National Transportation Safety Board joined the investigation at 10 a.m., CHP Lt. Scott Fredrick said. Investigators will look into human factors that may have caused the collision, Fredrick said. He added that they didn't know if the driver of the FedEx truck that collided with the tour bus had fallen asleep, if he had a mechanical problem with his vehicle or if another collision caused the FedEx driver to lose control. Investigators will use a variety of techniques including mapping and 3D diagramming to reconstruct the events that caused the collision, he said.
A final report wasn't expected for at least three months and may take up to six months, Fredrick said. They also plan to look into the records of both bus companies to look for contributing factors to this collision, he added.
Two people in a sedan that was involved in the collision sustained minor to moderate injuries and were transported to a hospital, Carpenter said. They're both expected to be OK.
"The soul of the CSU has been cut deeply by this accident," Cal State University Chancellor Timothy White said. He said that the system will provide grief counseling support if schools need it.
Humboldt State President Rollin Richmond defended the program that was bringing students up to the university during the press conference, and praised the students' willingness to continue thinking about what they're going to do in the future.
The last of the dead was removed from the site at 1:40 a.m., Jones said at the press conference. He said their main task now is the identification of the dead and seeking to identify their next of kin.
LAUSD Senior Deputy Superintendent Michelle King said she is with a team of 11 administrators, mental health counselors and crisis counselors seeking out the 19 LAUSD students who were on the bus to provide support. She said those in need could contact the school's mental health office for assistance.
An evacuation center was established Thursday night at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Orland, Red Cross spokesman Jordan Scott said. The agency will provide emotional support to survivors and their families as they arrive, he said, adding that the organization has all the volunteers and supplies it needs to help those impacted by the tragedy. — Mike Roe
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) issued a statement Friday morning on the bus crash:
“As a mother and a grandmother, this disaster strikes my heart. Words cannot express the sadness I feel for the families who have lost children in this tragic crash, and I am praying for a speedy recovery for all those who were injured.
“My office has been in contact with the National Transportation Safety Board, which has sent a team to the scene to investigate the crash, and we will be briefed later today.”
— KPCC staff
Grandmother Debra Loyd of Los Angeles tells KPCC she believes that her grandson Michael Myvett, a chaperone on the bus, may have died in the crash. She said she hasn't heard anything official, so she is waiting to get it "from the horse's mouth."
"I've been praying, walking the floor and looking at TV, just to see what will come on and what's going on," Loyd said.
She is hopeful that Myvett, 28, survived. Loyd last saw her grandson Thursday morning when she dropped him off at Union Station with his fiancee. They were planning to get married in June.
"[Michael] was the most lovable teddy bear that you ever want to meet. He always had a smile, he always spoke politely," Loyd said. "Everybody loves Michael. You don't know how many people been at my house since 5 o'clock this morning."
Several students and survivors have been active talking about the crash on Twitter, including back and forth between friends. Posts included photos of the bus on fire, a selfie and profanity-laced expressions of relief.
There were 100-foot skid marks left by the crash.
— Ashley Bailey and Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
The Sacramento County Coroner's Office confirmed the identity of one of those killed in the tour bus crash: Arthur Arzola of Rancho Cucamonga. He was 26. According to Humboldt State's website, Arzola was an admissions counselor from the Los Angeles area.
His wife has been notified, according to the Coroner's Office. He died at the University of California Davis Medical Center.
Arzola described himself in his bio as "hard-working, thoughtful, compassionate, & friendly."
— Shirley Jahad
FedEx issued a statement online on the tour bus accident that left 10 dead, including the driver of one of their vehicles who collided with a bus carrying students to visit Humboldt State.
"All of us at FedEx are deeply saddened by the tragic highway accident in California," the statement said. "Our hearts go out to all of those involved and their families. We are cooperating fully with the officials investigating this accident."
Lorna Bryant, a former chaperone with Humboldt State's Preview Plus program from 1995 to 2007 who knew all three chaperones who died in the bus crash, spoke about the program with KPCC.
The students are first-generation low-income students, Bryant said, who are accepted into an educational opportunity program once they're admitted to the school. The opportunity to be transported by bus is first-come first-served until the buses are filled.
"It’s a pretty long trip —12 hours. But one thing I learned chaperoning myself: the students form bonds on the trip and when you see the students in the fall, they already have a connection. They have a fresh start, they’ve created bonds and they can become lifelong friends," Bryant said.
She said that she still stays in touch with students from the program.
"One of my first students I chaperoned went on to become an advisor at Humboldt State and he also began chaperoning once he left the university."
— Steve Julian
Two identical twin girls were on separate buses heading to Humboldt State University to visit — one was on the bus that crashed. Her family still doesn't know if she's OK, her mother tells NBC L.A.
The twin girls are students at Norte Vista High School in Riverside. Their sister Clara told NBC L.A., “I just know that God has them safe. And if they’re not, it was time for them to go."
The mother was calling hospitals and Humboldt State to try to get an update last night, but had been unable to find out the status of her other daughter as the family hoped for the best while fearing the worst.
Another student NBC L.A. spoke with was left with scrapes and bruises, but survived. He says he was seated on the back of the bus.
— KPCC staff
The tour bus that crashed was one of two from Los Angeles and one of three total making the trip to take students to visit Humboldt State University, according to the school. Of the three buses , two of the buses arrived safely.
The students who arrived at Humboldt State are in residence halls on campus, according to the university. The school's president and a small group of staff are headed to visit injured students and families, the school said.
The students were set to attend a "Spring Preview" event, visit with staff from the Educational Opportunity Program which the school says "helps historically underrepresented students achieve their academic, personal, and career goals."
— KPCC staff
A few dozen students on their way to tour Humboldt State from Southern California are trying to recover from injuries this morning.
Humboldt State’s Preview Plus Program is 20 years old. It brings low-income and first-generation prospective college students from Los Angeles and elsewhere to spend two days on campus.
There were two buses from Los Angeles and one from Fresno making the trek. Names of the dead and injured have not yet been made public.
— KPCC staff
LAUSD superintendent John Deasy issued a statement Friday morning, offering an update and condolences on the tour bus crash:
We have confirmed 19 students from 16 schools were on the bus tour headed to Humboldt State University. The high schools include: San Fernando, Dorsey, Fremont, City of Angels, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, Manual Arts, Banning, Carson, Chavez, Diego Rivera, Belmont, Wilson, Chatsworth, Jefferson and Middle College. Only one or two students participated from each school. We will be providing support at these campuses this morning.
At this time, we know that there have been 10 fatalities, including five students. However, we do not know if those students attended LAUSD schools. Students from throughout Southern California were participating.
A team from LAUSD, led by Senior Deputy Superintendent Michelle King is traveling to the crash site.
An information line has been set up for families by Humboldt State University Police. That number is 707-826-6327. The Red Cross is also assisting the reunification of students and parents.
When more information is available, we will provide another update.
— KPCC staff
Among the students on the trip to visit Humboldt State University was Steven Clavijo, 18, a senior at West Ranch High in Santa Clarita, who planned to enroll in the school. Just as Clavijo was trying to catch a nap Thursday afternoon, he said he felt the big vehicle begin to shake from left to right and then he heard a loud boom.
"We knew we were in major trouble," he said.
Both the bus and semi drivers were among those killed in the fiery crash, authorities said.
RELATED: Thursday night's story on the crash
Many of those on the bus escaped through a window that someone had kicked open, Clavijo said, running for their lives to the other side of Interstate 5 before hearing an explosion and seeing the bus burst into flame.
Two more explosions soon followed, he said, and he and other survivors looked on knowing others were still trapped in the inferno.
Massive flames could be seen devouring both vehicles just after the crash, and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky until firefighters doused the fire, leaving behind scorched black hulks of metal. Bodies were draped in blankets inside the burned-out bus.
In addition to the drivers, three adult chaperones and five teenage students were killed in the crash, according to the California Highway Patrol. Their identities were not immediately released. The bus carried between 44 and 48 students, four chaperones and the driver, the patrol said.
Eric M. Weiss, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said a multi-disciplinary team of highway crash experts left on a flight Friday morning for the crash scene.
"Every piece of paper associated with this will be looked at," Weiss said. "Our first priority (though) is to get out there as quickly as possible and to process the scene and talk to any witnesses."
The crash happened a little after 5:30 p.m. on the interstate near Orland, a small city about 100 miles north of Sacramento.
The bus was one of two that the admissions office at Humboldt State University had chartered to bring prospective students from Southern California to tour the Arcata campus, Humboldt's Vice President of Administrative Affairs Joyce Lopes said.
The bus was owned by Silverado Stages, a tour bus company based in San Luis Obispo. The company said in a statement on its website Thursday night that it was assisting authorities in gathering information.
"Our top priority is making sure that the injured are being cared for," the company said.
Humboldt State President Rollin Richmond issued a statement on the school's website. "Our hearts go out to those who have been affected, and we are here to support them, and their families, in any way possible," Richmond said.
The students came from a number of Southern California high schools and Humboldt spokesman Simon Chabel said the college was working to confirm where exactly they were from.
Los Angeles Unified School District spokesman Tom Waldman said 19 students from 15 schools were on the bus that crashed. District officials, including crisis counselors, left for the scene at about 5:30 a.m. Friday and Superintendent John Deasy was traveling back from a business trip to the East Coast. Crisis counselors were also being made available at district schools.
A high school senior from Alliance Renee & Meyer Luskin Academy High School in Los Angeles said she and a few of her classmates who were accepted to the university were invited to go on the tour.
Sabrina Garcia said the tour began Thursday, with buses taking students in Southern California on the ride to the campus for a three-day stay there. She said she decided to postpone the tour because she had a school project to complete.
"I was devastated when I heard about the crash, and relieved that I didn't attend," Garcia said. "I can't imagine how those kids feel. You think you're going somewhere safe with your school — and you end up in an accident."
A CHP dispatcher says the bus and truck were on opposite sides of the freeway when the truck crossed the 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.
"There was a small white sedan in front of the truck," Heitman said. "The FedEx vehicle did sideswipe the sedan before it crossed the median."
No one in the car was injured.
A first responder who helped set up a triage at the scene said 36 or 37 people received injuries ranging from minor to severe 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," said Jason Wyman of the Orland Volunteer Fire Department.
Eleven people were taken to Enloe Medical Center in Chico, hospital officials said. Two of those patients were listed in critical condition Friday morning.
Five people were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Redding in fair condition. Two patients were taken to University of California, Davis, Medical Center in critical condition. One patient died at 10:30 p.m. Thursday bringing the death toll from nine to 10.
A nursing supervisor said three people were taken to Oroville Hospital in Oroville. She declined to describe their conditions, citing patient privacy laws.
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."
The American Red Cross set up a relief station at a Veterans Memorial Hall community center in Orland, about 5 miles from the crash site. Officer Joel Lynch said seven victims who were not hospitalized with injuries were staying the night with about 25 volunteers. A community member ordered pizza for the students.
— Associated Press
Corrections: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Marisol Serrato is one of the missing students. In fact her sister Marisa is currently missing. Also, an earlier version of this story misspelled student Ismael Jimenez's name. We regret the errors.