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Tragedy In California: Truck Hits Bus Full Of Students

Flames devoured both vehicles just after a FedEx truck hit a charter bus Thursday in Northern California. At least 10 people were killed. The bus was carrying high school students who were going to visit a college.
Jeremy Lockett

A highway in Northern California was turned into an inferno Thursday when a FedEx truck slammed into a charter bus full of high school students.

The California Highway Patrol says at least 10 people, including both drivers and five of the teenagers, were killed. An additional 30 or so people were injured. Those who survived escaped through smashed windows.

The accident happened around 5:30 p.m. local time on Interstate 5 near the town of Orland, 100 miles north of Sacramento. KQED's News Fix blog writes that the truck crossed a grassy freeway median and struck the bus, and that "flames devoured both vehicles after the crash."

Southern California Public Radio reports that the tour bus was "carrying Los Angeles-area high school students." According to KTLA-TV, "Humboldt State University confirmed the students on the bus were headed to the Northern California campus for the school's April 12 'Spring Preview Day.' "

Steven Clavijo, an 18-year-old senior at West Ranch High in Santa Clarita, was on the bus. He tells The Associated Press that the vehicle shook from left to right. Then there was a loud boom. "We knew we were in major trouble," he said.

The Los Angeles Times has this account from a person who was close to the scene:

"Marc Smutny, 27, was nearby when he heard 'probably three explosions' and ran to the scene. 'It was insane. The bus was engulfed in flames, smoke in and out of the front,' Smutny said. 'The bus looked like it took most of the hit. ... It was horrible.' "

The AP also talked to one of the first responders:

"The victims were teenage kids. A lot of them were freaked out. They were shocked. They still couldn't grasp what happened," Jason Wyman with the Orland Volunteer Fire Department said.

"You hear about it in the news, but you never seen anything like that," he said.

Update at 2:28 p.m. ET. Victims Being Identified:

During a televised press conference, officials with the California Highway Patrol said they have begun the grim task of trying to identify the remains of the 9 people who died on the scene.

Once they've been identified, either by DNA or other means, their families will be notified and their names will be made public.

Officials said the bus was carrying 19 students from 16 schools of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Many of them were students who would not normally have the opportunity to tour a college campus.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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