Tuesday 23 December 2014

Investigators begin probe into school bus inferno that killed 10 people

Published 11/04/2014 | 20:58

Massive flames are seen devouring both vehicles just after the crash, and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky  Thursday April 10, 2014 until firefighters had quenched the fire, leaving behind scorched black hulks of metal. The FedEx tractor-trailer crossed a grassy freeway median in Northern California and slammed into the bus carrying high school students on a visit to a college. At least nine were killed in the fiery crash, authorities said. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lockett)
Massive flames are seen devouring both vehicles just after the crash

Investigators do not yet know what caused a tractor-trailer to veer across a motorway reservation and slam into a bus, killing 10 people, the California Highway Patrol has said.

They are looking into various factors, including whether the FedEx tractor-trailer driver fell asleep, experienced mechanical failure or lost control because of a separate collision on the southbound side of the road.

Authorities will also probe roadway and weather conditions, Lieutenant Scott Fredrick said.

The bus was carrying more than 40 high school students on their way to visit Humboldt State University when the tractor-trailer slammed into it, causing a fiery wreck yesterday.

The crash occurred near Orland, a city about 150 miles north-east of San Francisco.

"Since these are such in-depth, detailed investigations, we don't expect to have a final report for a minimum of three months, 90 days," Mr Fredrick said. "It could take as long as six months depending on what the investigation entails."

California Highway Patrol officer Tracy Hoover surveys the wreckage at the scene of a collision of a tractor-trailer and a tour bus on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014. The tractor-trailer slammed into a tour bus carrying high school students in northern California on Thursday, killing at least nine people and injuring 32, the California Highway Patrol said. Fran Clader, CHP spokeswoman, said the driver of the FedEx truck lost control of the vehicle, crossed over a divider on Interstate 5 and crashed first into a car and then the tour bus.  REUTERS/Dan  Reidel/Chico Enterprise Record/Handout via Reuters   (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT EDUCATION) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT.THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
California Highway Patrol officer Tracy Hoover surveys the wreckage at the scene of a collision of a tractor-trailer and a tour bus on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Dan Reidel/Chico Enterprise Record/Handout via Reuters
Rescue workers, police and firefighters survey the scene where a truck and a tour bus collided on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Greg Barnette/Record Searchlight
California Highway Patrol officers investigate the scene of a collision of between a truck and a tour bus on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014. Greg Barnette/Record Searchlight
Rescue workers, police and firefighters survey the scene where a truck and a tour bus collided on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Greg Barnette/Record Searchlight
Emergency personnel help a survivor of a wreck at the scene of a traffic collision on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014. A tractor-trailer slammed into a tour bus carrying high school students in northern California REUTERS/Dan Reidel/Chico Enterprise Record/Handout via Reuters
Fire-fighters douse the wreckage at the scene of a collision of a tractor-trailer and a tour bus on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014, in this handout courtesy of the Chico Enterprise Record. REUTERS/Dan Reidel/Chico Enterprise Record/Handout via Reuters
Survivors wait to be transported at the scene of a collision of a tractor-trailer and a tour bus on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014, in this handout courtesy of the Chico Enterprise Record. REUTERS/Dan Reidel/Chico Enterprise Record/Handout via Reuters
A pair of California Highway Patrol officers inspect the hood of the FedEx truck that crashed into a chartered bus on Interstate 5 Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Orland, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A California Highway Patrol officer shines his light on a yellow blanket covering one of the victims of a fatal crash between a tour bus and a FedEx truck on Interstate 5
Massive flames are seen devouring both vehicles just after the crash, and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky Thursday April 10, 2014 until firefighters had quenched the fire, leaving behind scorched black hulks of metal. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lockett)
Rescue workers, police and firefighters work the scene where nine people were killed in a three-vehicle crash involving a bus carrying high school students on a visit to a college (AP Photo/The Record Searchlight, Greg Barnette)
Rescuers tend to walking wounded after a fiery crash involving several vehicles, Thursday, April 10, 2014, just north of Orland, Calif., that left at least nine dead. Authorities said it is not yet clear what caused the crash but that it involved a tour bus, a FedEx truck and a Nissan Altima. (AP Photo/The Chico Enterprise-Record, Dan Reidel)
Firefighters hose down the wreckage of a bus and a semitruck that collided, Thursday, April 10, 2014, just north of Orland, Calif., that left at least nine dead. Authorities said it is not yet clear what caused the crash but that it involved a tour bus, a FedEx truck and a Nissan Altima. (AP Photo/The Chico Enterprise-Record, Dan Reidel)
A pair of California Highway Patrol Officers looks over the demolished cab of FedEx truck, Friday, April 11, 2014, that crashed into a tour bus on Interstate 5 Thursday in Orland, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A California Highway Patrol Officer looks over the wreckage, Friday, April 11, 2014, where a tour bus and a FedEX truck crashed on Interstate 5 Thursday in Orland, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A California Highway Patrol Officer photographs the crash scene, Friday, April 11, 2014, where a tour bus and a FedEX truck crashed on Interstate 5 Thursday in Orland, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
An official walks past the remains of a tour bus that was struck by a FedEx truck on Interstate 5 Thursday in Orland, Calif., Friday, April 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Firefighters douse the wreckage at the scene of a collision of a tractor-trailer and a tour bus on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014, in this handout courtesy of the Chico Enterprise Record. REUTERS/Dan Reidel/Chico Enterprise Record/Handout via Reuters
Emergency crews look over the wreckage at the scene of a collision of a truck and tour bus on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014. (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER)
Emergency crews look over the wreckage at the scene of a collision of a truck and tour bus on Interstate 5 near Highway 32 near Orland, California, April 10, 2014. (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER)

Someone kicked a window on the bus out, and many of those on board squeezed through and ran for their lives before the vehicle exploded in flames.

The 44 teenagers aboard, nearly half from the Los Angeles school district, were participating in a programme that invites prospective low-income or first-generation college students to visit the university in far Northern California.

Both drivers were killed, along with three adult chaperones and five teenage students, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A 26-year-old man who worked as a university recruiter was the first of the adult victims to be named.

Coroner's officials said Arthur Arzola died at University of California, Davis Medical Centre in Sacramento.

Mr Arzola was an admissions counsellor for Humboldt. In his online biography for the job, he described himself as thoughtful, compassionate and friendly and said he liked to walk on the beach when he visited Humboldt.

A university statement praised him for his passionate commitment to helping low-income and first-generation students get into college.

A Southern California family has said it is desperately trying to locate one of two identical twins who were on the bus.

Miguel Serrato said his sister, 17-year-old Marisa Serrato, has been missing since yesterday evening after the accident.

The other twin, Marisol Serrato, was on a different bus that was not involved in the crash and made it safely to the school today.

Marisol had been accepted to the school, while Marisa was waitlisted. The two Norte Vista High School seniors decided to check out the campus.

The 23-year-old Miguel said the family has not slept since learning about the crash on the news at their father's 65th birthday celebration.

The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team to investigate the accident. "Every piece of paper associated with this will be looked at," said spokesman Eric M Weiss.

Safety advocates have said rules to make crashed buses easier for passengers to escape have not been implemented despite a recommendation from accident investigators 15 years ago.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended in February 1999 that federal regulators issue new standards for large buses so that after an accident passengers can easily open windows and emergency exits.

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