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1 killed, 26 injured in tour bus crash in Mojave Desert

One person was killed and 26 others were injured Monday  when a charter bus collided with two vehicles on State Route 58 in the Mojave Desert, authorities said.

The 2007 Chevrolet Starcraft bus from A&F Tours in Arcadia was traveling east on the highway just after 12 p.m. when “for reasons unknown” it moved into the westbound lanes and crashed head-on into a Subaru Outback and a Chevy Spark, said Officer Brian Benson, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol in Barstow.

The bus, which was carrying 26 people, overturned and landed upright, he said.

The driver of the white Subaru suffered major injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene, he said. Twenty-six people were injured in the collision, including nine critically, fire and CHP officials said. 

The bus was traveling from Fresno to Las Vegas when it crashed two miles east of Highway 395 near the unincorporated community of Kramer Junction, Benson said.

Photographs from the scene showed the front of the bus was badly damaged. “U-best Holiday” was displayed on its sides.

Accident investigators aren't sure how fast the bus was going when it swerved into oncoming traffic, but the vehicles collided with enough force to leave the two smaller vehicles shredded.  Luggage, car door pieces and a bumper were scattered across the road.

The bus flipped during the collision, tearing most of its front away and shattering several windows. One of the smaller vehicles came to a rest on its side, with clothing, sleeping bags and shoes spilling out of its broken back window. The other car stayed upright, but the force of the accident sheared away most of the right side of the vehicle. 

Authorities closed State Route 58 east of Highway 395 for several hours. Traffic was backed up for miles in both directions as emergency responders cleared the accident site.

Eric Sherwin, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said more than a dozen ambulances were used to transport patients to four  hospitals. 

Earlier in the day, the department had requested at least six helicopters. However, weather conditions in Kramer Junction and the Cajon Pass forced officials to cancel the flights, he said.

Skies were overcast in the remote area, and winds were blowing up to 20 mph with some 30-mph gusts, said meteorologist Brett Albright of the National Weather Service in San Diego.

Units from Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow and the Kern and San Bernardino county fire departments treated patients at the scene, Sherwin said.

“We are doing the best we can,” Sherwin said Monday afternoon.

The CHP’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team is investigating the crash, Benson said.

Calls to A&F Tours were not immediately returned.

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: VeronicaRochaLA 

frank.shyong@latimes.com

Twitter: @frankshyong

 


UPDATES:

5:30 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the California Highway Patrol and details about the scene.

4:15 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from the California Highway Patrol about the crash and number of injuries.

1:40 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from San Bernardino County Fire Department spokesman Eric Sherwin.

1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with officials saying that helicopters may be unable to fly to the scene due to weather conditions.

This article was originally published at 12:55 p.m.

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