Bus Crash: Counselors Dispatched to Schools in Aftermath of Fatal Accident

Ten people are confirmed dead, including five students from across Southern California. Identifying the victims could take time, authorities warned.

CBS Sacramento screenshot of the bus accident in Orland, which took the lives of 10 people, including five students from Southern California.
CBS Sacramento screenshot of the bus accident in Orland, which took the lives of 10 people, including five students from Southern California.

Originally posted at 1:16 p.m. April 11, 2014. Edited to add news about an Orange County student.

UPDATED at 3:34 p.m.: Three Santa Ana Unified School District students were on bus but all survived.

Original post:

Counselors were dispatched to 16 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses, including Grant and Chatsworth, and other schools across the area today as authorities in Northern California scrambled to identify the 10 people who died in a crash between a big rig and a bus ferrying Southland students to Humboldt State University.

The Orange County students came from schools in Anaheim, Garden Grove and Santa Ana, officials said.

A Pacifica High School senior will need surgery but is "expected to make a full and complete recovery," said Amy Stevens of the Garden Grove Unified School District. His parents were with him today at a hospital, she added.

Officials warned that identifying the people killed in Thursday night's crash between the tour bus and a FedEx big rig will likely have to be done using dental and medical records, and potentially DNA, delaying the process. They also said it could be months before the cause of the wreck is known.

Five students were among the dead. The adults killed in the crash were the bus driver, the truck driver and the three chaperones accompanying Los Angeles-area high school seniors, according to the California Highway Patrol.

One of the chaperones was identified as Arthur Arzola, 26, of Rancho Cucamonga, who was a college recruiter. El Monte High School student Adrian Castro was also killed. Castro was a football player at the school.

During a briefing at the CHP's Willows Area office, officials said 31 people had been taken to seven different hospitals following the crash. Nine people died at the scene, and one person who suffered severe burns died at a hospital.

The students were scheduled to visit Humboldt State University in Arcata when their bus, which was chartered by the university, collided with the big rig on Interstate 5 near the town of Orland around 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The students had been accepted or were considering attending the university.

The 48 occupants of the bus included 44 students, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District.

According to the LAUSD, there were 19 students aboard the bus from 16 LAUSD schools -- San Fernando, Grant, Dorsey, Fremont, City of Angels, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, Manual Arts, Banning, Carson, Chavez, Diego Rivera, Belmont, Wilson, Chatsworth, Jefferson and Middle College.

The university issued its list of all schools represented on the bus, and posted it on the website www.humboldt.edu/emergency. The campuses included schools in San Diego, Riverside and Orange counties.

A hotline for LAUSD parents concerned about students involved in last night's bus crash has been established at (213) 241-3841.

A Long Beach Unified School District official said two of its students were aboard the bus, and they suffered injuries described as "non-life- threatening."

The Pasadena Unified School District said four students from that district took part in the bus trip, but only one was aboard the bus that crashed. That student suffered leg injuries.

Investigators said they would be working to determine if any mechanical failures contributed to the wreck, and would also be reviewing weather and road conditions at the time. They said it was unclear if the driver of the FedEx truck may have fallen asleep, or if there was a mechanical problem with the truck, or if another accident may have occurred that forced the truck across the freeway median.

Jonathan Gutierrez, a Banning High student who was aboard the bus, tweeted that he had sustained "bruised leg, eyebrow cut open, scratches all over my arm & all my stuff that I packed is burned. i'm beyond thankful that I'm still here."

Joyce Lopes, the Humboldt State vice president for administrative affairs, said the university had chartered three buses for the campus tour. One was for students from Fresno. The other two carried students from Los Angeles.

Lopes said the students had been assigned to buses "largely, but not entirely" on an alphabetical basis. Some students with names earlier in the alphabet had left Los Angeles on the second bus, she said, adding that the buses had been due to arrive at the university around 7 p.m. Thursday.

The second L.A. bus arrived safely, and counselors were made available for the students, Lopes said.

LAUSD spokesman Tommy Chang said the principals of the involved schools have been informed of developments.

A CHP spokeswoman said the collision sequence began with the big rig crossing into the northbound lanes for an unknown reason, side-swiping a white sedan and then colliding with the bus. This was followed by an "immediate explosion," she said.

The bus was owned by Silverado Stages of San Luis Obispo. A statement on the company's website said it was helping authorities gather information regarding the accident.

"Our top priority is making sure the injured are being cared for," the statement said.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were on sent to the site.

Humboldt State University said the prospective students were en route to a spring preview day scheduled for today -- part of a two-day visit to the Arcata campus.

The students were participants in the university-funded Preview Plus program, which brings low-income and first-generation prospective students from the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas to the campus, according to Humboldt State.

Families of students who may have been affected were advised to contact university police at (707) 826-6327 for further information or guidance. The Red Cross has established a support site in Orland for victims of the crash at the Orland Veterans Memorial Hall.

The American Red Cross was assisting in the reunification of students and parents, and it appeared that the parents of some of the students had been re-united with their children. Banning High's Jonathan Gutierrez tweeted at 2:44 a.m.,  "so relieved to have my dad here."

--City News Service

Donna Fleming April 12, 2014 at 12:48 PM
This is a horrific story. A moment in time and lives are changed forever. My prayers go out for the lost lives, the parents of lost children, and those who lost their lives. This is a reminder to live each day well.
Penny Arévalo April 12, 2014 at 12:58 PM
I agree, Donna. And covering such a large geographic territory as I do, there are just ties everywhere, from Orange County to Arcate (city of Humboldt State University, where my son attends). I'm just heartbroken for all the families. Such tragedy.


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