Students among 10 killed in California crash


by William M. Welch, USA TODAY

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 10:13 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 11 at 8:01 AM

ORLAND, Calif. -- Ten people were killed and dozens injured Thursday when a charter bus collided with other vehicles and burst into flames in Northern California, authorities said.

California Highway Patrol dispatcher Curtis Pahlka said a FedEx truck crossed the freeway and slammed into the charter bus. Pahlka said a Nissan Altima was also in the collision.

Pahlka said the crash was reported at 5:41 p.m. near the town of Orland, about 100 miles north of Sacramento, and prompted police to close a section of Interstate 5.

The crash killed the drivers of the truck and bus, five students and three chaperones.

Glenn County sheriff's dispatcher Pauline Spooner said the bus passengers were high school seniors on their way to visit the campus of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.

Spooner also said several people were airlifted to local hospitals with injuries.

"Humboldt State University is deeply saddened by a tragic accident that occurred earlier this evening involving a charter bus filled with prospective students," the school said in a statement. "They were on their way to visit campus for the April 11 Spring Preview event. Our hearts go out to those who have been affected, and we are here to support them, and their families, in any way possible."

One emergency responder said as many as 37 people needed treatment for injuries such as burns, broken bones and cuts.

"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 with the Orland Volunteer Fire Department.

Steven Clavijo, 18, a student at West Ranch High School in Santa Clarita, said he was on the bus during the crash.

Clavijo said he was just getting ready to fall asleep in the back of the bus when he felt the vehicle begin to swerve.

"I just heard this loud boom," he said. "We knew we were in major trouble."

Many of the more than 40 students on board escaped through a window one of them had kicked open and ran from the wreckage before the bus exploded behind them, the AP reported.

Tommy Chang, the instructional superintendent for the Los Angeles School District, confirmed that students from Los Angeles schools were involved in the wreck, but he declined to provide further details.

The trip gave the students, "an amazing opportunity to see what this amazing state has to offer in terms of higher education," Chang said.

Contributing: William Cummings; The Associated Press