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Most Orland bus crash victims died of smoke inhalation, coroner says

Coroner says 7 of 9 Orland, Calif., bus crash victims died of smoke inhalation

Most of the victims killed in a fiery crash in Northern California between a college-bound bus and a FedEx freight truck in April survived the initial impact, only to die from smoke inhalation as a fire tore through the carriage, coroner's officials announced.

On April 10, a FedEx truck carrying two 28-foot trailers on the southbound 5 Freeway in Orland drove across a 58-foot center median into northbound traffic.

The truck first struck the back of a 2013 Nissan Altima, which rotated and moved off the freeway, and then went on to hit the chartered bus carrying chaperons and high school students from Southern California.

A post-crash fire was ignited, which burned both vehicles and significantly damaged the front of the bus, according to a report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Five students from Southern California high schools and three adult chaperons bound for Humboldt State University died in the crash, as did both the drivers. The driver and passenger of the Nissan received minor injuries.

On Monday, the Glenn County sheriff-coroner announced that of the nine autopsies it performed, only two of the victims died of “multiple trauma” due to the collision. The other seven died of asphyxiation due to inhalation of smoke. The coroner did not identify which victims died of what.

A 10th passenger who died at a hospital after the crash was examined by the Sacramento County coroner. A cause of death was not immediately available.

Several lawsuits have been filed in connection with the incident. Victims' families fault the FedEx driver for causing the collision and the bus for not providing enough emergency exits for passengers. Witnesses reported at least one student died helping others escape the smoke and flames.

According to the NTSB investigation, the FedEx truck had departed about 10 a.m. that day from Sacramento to deliver two trailers to Weed, Calif., in Siskiyou County. It began the drive back to Sacramento with two new trailers about 3:30 p.m.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

The bus, which departed from Los Angeles, was carrying 43 students and three chaperons and had made a scheduled stop and driver change in Sacramento on its way to Humboldt State University, according to the report.

Last week, the parents of Mattison Haywood, who was killed in the crash, filed a lawsuit against the charter bus company and FedEx. The litigation marks at least the fourth lawsuit filed in connection with the incident.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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