Firefighters hose down the wreckage of the bus and a truck involved in the deadly crash just north of Orland, Calif.(Dan Reidel / Chico Enterprise-Record)
Most of the victims killed in a Northern California bus crash in April survived the initial impact only to die from smoke inhalation as fire tore through the carriage, coroner’s officials said.
Ten people died in the crash April 10, when 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 hit a chartered bus carrying chaperons and high school students from Southern California to Humboldt State University.
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 died, as did both the drivers. The driver and passenger of the Nissan suffered minor injuries.
On Monday, the Glenn County sheriff-coroner announced that two of the victims died of “multiple trauma” due to the collision. 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 succumbed to burns, the Sacramento County coroner said.
So far, 15 lawsuits have been filed against FedEx and the bus company, Silverado Stages Inc. All but one of the suits was consolidated last week into a single case, said attorney Katherine Harvey-Lee, who filed a lawsuit July 14 on behalf of victim Mattison Haywood.
The single case not joined with the others probably will be coordinated alongside the group litigation for consistency’s sake, Harvey-Lee said.
The Haywoods’ lawsuit mirrors the others and faults the FedEx driver for causing the collision and the bus for not providing enough emergency exits for passengers. Witnesses reported that 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. from Sacramento to deliver two trailers to Weed, Calif., in Siskiyou County. It began the drive back to Sacramento about 3:30 p.m. with two new trailers.
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, according to the report.