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Pasadena woman among those killed in bus crash on I-15 in San Diego

A bus rolled down an embankment off Interstate 15 in North County Saturday morning, killing three people and injuring 19 others. The crash occurred in the southbound lanes south of state Route 76 about 10:30 a.m., according to the North County Fire Protection District.
A bus rolled down an embankment off Interstate 15 in North County Saturday morning, killing three people and injuring 19 others. The crash occurred in the southbound lanes south of state Route 76 about 10:30 a.m., according to the North County Fire Protection District.
(Don Boomer )

Authorities have released the names of two of the three women who were killed Saturday when a charter bus rolled down an embankment on Interstate 15 near Fallbrook.

Seventeen other passengers were hospitalized after the crash, including a 5-year-old boy who was critically injured.

Julia Perez Cornejo, 73, of Pasadena, and Maria De La Luz Diaz, 67, of Riverside, died at the scene along with a 23-year-old woman, according to the San Diego County medical examiner’s office. The name of the third victim has not been released pending notification of family members.

The crash occurred amid rainy conditions when the driver swerved and lost control in the southbound lanes of the freeway around 10:20 a.m. south of California 76 in Pala Mesa. The vehicle slid down an embankment and landed on its roof.

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The charter bus had departed from El Monte in Los Angeles County and was en route to San Ysidro, with a final stop planned in Tijuana, California Highway Patrol officials said. It was carrying a driver and 20 passengers ranging in age from 5 to 75, with at least eight from Mexico.

The bus picked up riders in El Monte, Baldwin Park, Pomona and Riverside before heading south on I-15. The driver was going up a steep grade when he lost control and the bus veered to the right off the roadway — going over an asphalt shoulder and across a dirt shoulder — before sliding down an embankment and overturning.

The CHP originally reported that 18 people were taken to hospitals, but later discovered the number was lower because the driver was not transported. The confusion prompted an extensive search of the scene that included the use of a helicopter and a drone to ensure that all occupants were accounted for.

The bus driver, a 52-year-old man from Whittier who suffered minor scrapes and complained of pain, is cooperating in the ongoing investigation. He voluntarily submitted a blood sample, although the CHP said neither drugs nor alcohol were suspected factors in the crash.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation records, which cover the last two years, show no reported crashes on the bus company’s record.

According to online records, a bus with the same license plate number as the one in Saturday’s crash was found with windshield wipers that were either “inoperative” or “defective” in a Nov. 5 inspection.

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board was being sent to the Fallbrook area to investigate the fatal crash.

Kucher writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Updates:

8:45 PM, Feb. 24, 2020: This story was updated with information about the 5-year-old victim being in stable condition.


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