A group of California high school students were headed to a much-anticipated tour of Humboldt State University last Thursday when their bus was struck by an apparently out-of-control FedEx truck which had crossed over the median strip and driven directly into them.
The charter bus was 90 miles north of Sacramento when the collision occurred on Interstate 5. There were more than thirty people taken to local area hospitals for treatment of their injuries, while both the bus driver and the truck driver were killed, as well as five students and three of their chaperones. According to Officer Tracy Hoover of the California Highway Patrol, the injuries were largely minor. “Many of them had cuts, contusions, bumps, minor burns. I know there was one person when we arrived on scene that was on fire.” Many of those killed had to be identified through their dental records because their bodies were so badly burned.
According to witnesses, the accident took place at approximately 5:45 p.m. The FedEx truck sideswiped a vehicle travelling on the same side of the road that it was on, then crossed the median and struck the bus. It is not clear as to why the driver crossed the median, though there were some reports that the truck was on fire when it traversed the highway. Investigators reported that there were no tread marks evident at the scene, indicating that the driver had not tried to stop his vehicle. The impact of the collision and subsequent explosion destroyed the FedEx truck’s black box, making it more difficult for investigators to determine what the cause of the accident was.
The trip to the college involved three charter buses loaded with more than forty teenagers from thirty one different Southern California high schools. It was specifically aimed at low-income and first generation college prospects and involved a two-day trip that enabled the teens to spend the night in residence halls and meet staff and students through a variety of events. The other two buses completed the trip to the school.
The National Transportation Safety Board has announced that they will be assisting in the investigation of the accident, and according to NTSB representative Mark Rosekind, “One, we’re going to be investigating the human, the machine and the environment, and what’s critical for us especially in highway accidents is for us to collect perishable information, the kind of information that goes away very quickly. And then the most important thing we can do is issue recommendations so that these kinds of accidents don’t happen again.”