At least nine people were killed on Thursday when a tour bus carrying Los Angeles-area high school students crashed in Northern California, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The students were set to visit Humboldt State University for a college tour. CHP officials first reported seven students were killed in the crash, but later would only confirm that seven passengers died and would not say if they were students.
The tour bus collided with a FedEx tractor trailer and Nissan Altima on Interstate 5 near Orland, Calif., about 5:40 p.m., CHP officials said.
The nine fatalities included the tour bus driver and the FedEx truck driver. Dozens more were injured.
The FedEx truck was heading south when it crossed the center line and hit the northbound bus head-on, causing the bus to erupt into flames, CHP officials said. The reason the FedEx crashed or how the Nissan Altima was involved was not clear.
The bus belonged to Silverado Stages, a tour bus company based out of San Luis Obispo.
The NBC4 I-Team found that Silverado Stages, one of the largest charter bus companies in California, has a good safety record, though the company had two crashes in the last three months. FedEx, however, has been involved in 171 accidents in California -- five of them fatal -- in the last two years.
Nearly 50 people were on board, including the students, a few chaperones and the driver, CHP officials said. The group of students from Los Angeles and Riverside school districts was heading to Humboldt University's Spring Preview Day this weekend.
LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said several LAUSD students were on board, and at least one student who was injured called to say she was ok.
"We don’t know the exact number of LAUSD students who were on the bus, because this was not an LAUSD field trip," Deasy told NBC4. "The field trip was organized by an outside group to visit Humboldt State."
LAUSD spokesman Tommy Chang confirmed students from Robert F. Kennedy High School and Manual Arts High School were among those on the bus.
A parent told NBC4 her twin daughters are students at Norte Vista High School in Riverside, but they boarded two separate buses. Their mother said she couldn't get a hold of the daughter who was aboard and was desperate for information about her condition.
Jonathan Gutierrez, one of two students at Banning High School in Wilmington, was on the bus and told NBC4 the impact was sudden, extremely painful and immediately ignited a fire. Passengers smashed open windows to escape.
Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement Thursday evening on the deadly crash.
"Anne and I extend our heartfelt and deep sympathies to the families, friends and loved ones of those who died in the tragic accident near Orland this evening," he said. "As we mourn the loss of those who died, we join all Californians in expressing our gratitude for the tireless work of the Red Cross and emergency personnel who responded bravely to this terrible tragedy."
LAUSD administrators were en route to the scene of the crash. Both FedEx and Silverado Stages said they were working with authorities during the investigation.
Parents and family members of students who were on the bus may contact Humboldt University police for more information at 707-826-5555.
Investigators said they were expecting to remain at the scene until at least 7 a.m. Friday.
Orland is about 480 miles north of Los Angeles, and 150 miles north of San Francisco.
- NBC Southern California
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