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Saturday 20 September 2014

Investigators begin probe into school bus inferno that killed 10 people

Published 11/04/2014 | 20:58

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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.

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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."

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.

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. At least nine people were killed and 32 injured on Thursday when a tour bus carrying high school students collided with a FedEx truck in Northern California, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) spokeswoman said. MANDATORY CREDIT REUTERS/Greg Barnette/Record Searchlight  (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER) ATTENTION EDITORS - NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT
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 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. At least nine people were killed and 32 injured on Thursday when a tour bus carrying high school students collided with a FedEx truck in Northern California, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) spokeswoman said. MANDATORY CREDIT  REUTERS/Greg Barnette/Record Searchlight   (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER) ATTENTION EDITORS - NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT
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)

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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