According to local authorities, a horrific tragedy unfolded Thursday when 10 people were killed after a bus carrying students was struck head-on by a FedEx truck that had crossed the median in Northern California. Lt. Bruce Carpenter of the California Highway Patrol reports that the crash took the lives of the drivers, five students and three chaperones. Both the FedEx truck and bus were engulfed in flames shortly after the incident occurred, spewing black smoke around the scene.
“I went outside, and everything was in flames already,” Luis Lopez, a local resident, told CNN affiliate KXTV. “There were a couple of explosions after that.”
The Highway Patrol is currently investigating why the FedEx truck crossed the median, but the investigation may take months. Some investigators believe the driver may have been attempting to avoid a passenger car on the road ahead of it. The truck did sideswipe a car before crossing the median. Its occupants were not seriously injured but were sent to a hospital for treatment.
At least 34 people involved in the crash were admitted to area hospitals after the accident occurred.
The bus was carrying students from various Los Angeles-area schools to visit Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif. The crash happened in the town of Orland, around 100 miles north of Sacramento.
There were two other buses with students bound for Humboldt that were not involved in the wreck. Those students continued on to the university, where they were housed in dorms and grief counselors were made available to them.
“The victims were teenage kids. A lot of them were freaked out. They were shocked. They still couldn’t grasp what happened,” said Jason Wyman of the Orland Volunteer Fire Department.
One of the students described the event through Twitter:
“i was asleep and next thing you know i was jumping out for my life,” Jonathan Gutierrez wrote, describing the shock of everything that had occurred.
Guiterrez received a bruised leg, cut eyebrow and a few scratches. He explained later that his left leg has been preventing him from walking.
“All my stuff that I packed is burned. I’m beyond thankful that I’m still here,” Gutierrez tweeted.
FedEx spokeswoman Bonnie Kourvelas released a statement in regard to the tragic scene: “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in the tragic accident on I-5 in California. We are cooperating fully with authorities as they investigate.”