State and federal investigators are sifting through the considerable wreckage in the aftermath of a horrific crash in Northern California late yesterday afternoon, in which the driver of a FedEx truck swerved across a highway median and slammed head-on into a tour bus full of high school students. The crash has so far claimed the lives of 10 people, including five high school students.
Calls about the crash, which could be heard from a quarter-mile away, started coming in to the CHP at about 5:40 p.m. yesterday. By the time first responders arrived, the tour bus was fully engulfed in flames. More than a dozen emergency agencies responded to the crash, and in all, 31 people had to be transported to seven area hospitals with injuries ranging in severity from minor to critical. Nine people were pronounced dead at the scene, with a tenth dying hours later of severe burns. It was early this morning before the last body was removed from the wreckage. Some of the injuries to those killed were so extensive that police have suggested that it would be necessary to use medical and dental records to identify them.
Toxicology reports will also be conducted on the drivers involved in the crash. One survivor of the crash has already come forward and told the Sacramento Bee that the bus had been running late, in part because it had been involved in a minor crash earlier in the trip.
As of now, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) says it is still not clear why the FedEx driver, who was among those killed, veered off course. One possibility is that he fell asleep, but it’s also possible that his big rig experienced some sort of mechanical failure. There is also a possibility that it was involved in another accident that preceded the deadly crash. CHP Officials noted that a car was also involved in the crash, but didn’t explain anything more than that.
CHP investigators were working with a team of investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), who arrived about 10 a.m. this morning to work on accident reconstruction, by using very sophisticated equipment, including 3-D diagramming. They will also take into account roadway and weather conditions at the time of the crash. They noted, however, that the investigative process was long and painstaking, and could take as much as six months to complete.