Earlier this week, the sheriff-coroner for Glenn County, California reported on its autopsy results in the wake of a fiery bus-truck crash that occurred on a Northern California highway back on April 10.
According to their data, coroners suggest that most of the ten people who died in the crash, including five students, three adult chaperones and both drivers, survived the initial impact of the crash, but died from smoke inhalation in the ensuing fire as it ripped through the bus. Of the nine autopsies coroners conducted, only two of the fatalities were due to “multiple trauma.” The other seven died of asphyxiation.
The accident occurred at about 5:30 p.m., when a FedEx truck that was hauling two 28-foot trailers on the southbound side of the Interstate 5 Freeway in Orland suddenly careened across the 58-foot-wide center median and into the northbound side. First, the truck hit the back of a 2013 Nissan Altima, causing that car to rotate and slide off the freeway. The driver and one passenger in that car received minor injuries. The truck then veered off and hit the charter bus, which was carrying 43 Los Angeles high school students on a trip to Humboldt State University.
According to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the impact caused a fire to start, which caused significant damage to the front of the bus and burned both vehicles. They also reported that, while the bus left behind almost 150 feet of skid marks on the roadway, indicating an attempt to stop, the FedEx truck left behind no skid marks on either the roadway or the median.
The NTSB report also noted that the FedEx truck had departed Sacramento at about 10 a.m. that morning, and delivered two trailers to Weed, Calif., about 229 miles away, before beginning its return trip to Sacramento with two new trailers about 3:30 p.m. The bus, which had left from Los Angeles, had just made a scheduled stop and changed drivers in Sacramento before the accident.
A number of theories have developed about the cause of the accident, although officials continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding it and have not determined an exact cause. Some have suggested that the FedEx driver was a fault for causing the accident, but some have also faulted the charter bus company for not making sure the bus had enough emergency exits so that passengers could escape the fire. At least four lawsuits have been filed as a result of this accident, and there may be many more coming.
The investigation process for such a terrible accident is long and painstaking, and it will focus on a number of possibilities, including the conditions and qualifications of both drivers and the conditions of all vehicles involved in the crash. The knowledge that many of the fatalities were the result of smoke inhalation adds another wrinkle to the investigation, because it calls into question whether the manufacturer of the bus could have been designed to be more fire-resistant.
Bus accidents often cause major change in the lives of families, and all relevant facts must be discovered. If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an accident involving a bus, a truck or both, please contact the Texas Bus and Truck Accident Injury Lawyer at Hill Law Firm as soon as possible, so that we can begin a thorough investigation and help to protect your rights.