At least nine people died Thursday when a bus carrying Los Angeles-area high school students for a tour of Humboldt State University was struck head-on by a FedEx truck on the 5 Freeway in Northern California, causing a fire that badly burned both vehicles.
For unknown reasons, the truck crossed over the landscaped center median and crashed into the tour bus, which was traveling north on the 5 Freeway near Orland in Glenn County, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The drivers of the bus and truck were killed, officials said, and the other fatalities were passengers on the bus.
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.
Witness Marc Smutny, 27, said he was doing landscape work nearby when he heard a series of blasts.
Smutny said he ran to the scene and saw flames rising from the FedEx truck and a white charter bus.
“It was insane. The bus was engulfed in flames, smoke in and out of the front,” Smutny said. “The bus looked like it took most of the hit. … It was horrible.”
Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy said some students from LAUSD schools were on board but that the district had no word on any fatalities.
At least one LAUSD student was injured, he said. That student contacted her mother, who alerted LAUSD officials.
The bus also appeared to be carrying some students from the Banning area.
The CHP said the bus was carrying students from several high schools in the Los Angeles area. Deasy noted the trip was not organized by the LAUSD.
The bus was bound for Humboldt State University for a spring break tour of the campus, according to university officials.
"Our hearts go out to those who have been affected, and we are here to support them, and their families, in any way possible," said Rollin Richmond, the university's president, in a statement.