Los Angeles: At least eight people were killed on Sunday night and more than 30 injured when a tour bus crashed on a narrow mountain road near Yucaipa, California, authorities said.
The collision, which involved the bus, a truck and a sedan, took place about 6.30pm on California 38 on a route leading from the Big Bear area, authorities said. Some people were ejected from the bus; others were trapped inside. Because of the severity of the carnage, it was difficult for rescue workers to immediately identify exactly how many people were killed. California Highway Patrol spokesman Mario Lopez said that all of the known fatalities appeared to come from the bus, which was a charter carrying 38 passengers, including children. The sedan was carrying three people, and the truck had one occupant, officials said.
Caltrans spokeswoman Michelle Profant said the bus lost control while going down the mountain and rolled over the truck at least once, crushing it.
One witness told KCAL-TV in Los Angeles that he saw the bus speeding downhill just before the accident, swerving past cars. “There was smoke coming from the tyres, and it was looking real bad,” he said. “It happened so fast, I don’t know how it all happened.” One passenger told the San Bernardino Sun. “This was supposed to be a good day out with my companions and then this happened.”
Firefighters set up a triage area on the ground next to where the big white bus had come to rest, as rescuers from at least eight agencies worked to stabilise and transport the wounded. It took firefighters more than two hours to extricate all the injured. In all, 27 were taken to area hospitals, at least six of them in critical condition. Some of the injured were children. “Investigation into the cause hasn’t even begun because patient treatment and transport takes priority,” said Eric Sherwin, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department.
The tour bus appeared to have originated from Tijuana and was headed back there, officials said. Herbert Atienza, a spokesman for Loma Linda University Medical Centre, said the hospital received four crash victims — two adults and two children. One adult and one child were in critical condition, he said. “We’re expecting more people from the crash,” he said on Sunday evening.
Further information about the victims was not immediately available. The highway is likely to be closed until Monday evening as the investigation continues, a California Department of Transportation spokeswoman said. The accident comes a day after a bus full of students on a college tour crashed in Boston, injuring 35. The mountain roads leading up to the San Bernardino Mountains have also been the site of numerous tragic crashes, including one two years ago, in which a bus carrying teenagers on a church retreat careened down a snow-covered embankment, killing one and critically injuring ten.