Highway Safety Investigator Robert Accetta is part of the go-team that the NTSB sent to the accident site. Here, he documents the damaged motorcoach.
Photo courtesy NTSB
ORLAND, Calif. — An investigation is underway into a crash involving a motorcoach and FedEx truck that occurred near here on Thursday evening, killing five adults and five students.
The Chico Enterprise Record reports that the crash occurred on the northbound Interstate 5, when the FedEx semi-truck crossed the freeway’s median and collided with a tour bus that was carrying high school students. The students were from Southern California high schools and were on their way to visit Humboldt State University for a spring preview for prospective students.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) told the news outlet that it is not yet sure why the FedEx truck crossed the freeway's median and hit the bus.
CHP has confirmed that there were 10 fatalities — the drivers of both vehicles, five students and three chaperones — and more than 30 injuries.
The Associated Press reports that there were 44 students on the motorcoach.
A statement on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) website indicates that 19 students from 16 schools within the district were on the motorcoach. Officials said that only one or two students participated from each school, and the district was going to provide support at those campuses.
“At this time, we know that there have been 10 fatalities, including five students. However, we do not know if those students attended LAUSD schools,” the statement said. “A team from LAUSD, led by Senior Deputy Superintendent Michelle King, is traveling to the crash site.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has launched a go-team to investigate the crash. Highway Safety Investigator Robert Accetta will serve as the investigator-in-charge, leading a multi-disciplinary team of NTSB personnel. NTSB Board Member Mark Rosekind is accompanying the team and will serve as the principal spokesperson during the on-scene phase of the investigation.
FedEx addressed the deadly crash on its website, saying in a statement, “All of us at FedEx are deeply saddened by the tragic highway accident in California. Our hearts go out to all of those involved and their families. We are cooperating fully with the officials investigating this accident.”
Humboldt State University also released a statement about the crash: “The Humboldt State community sends its deepest condolences to the friends and families of those affected. We are doing everything possible to provide support and assistance.”
The motorcoach involved in the accident was from Silverado Stages. The company said in a statement that it is helping authorities in gathering information about the accident.
“Our top priority is making sure that the injured are being cared for,” the company said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured, their families and everyone affected by this accident.”
Update: On Sunday, during a third media briefing of the crash, the NTSB's Mark Rosekind that the agency's fire group and survival factors team is in the process of obtaining a video that is being provided by the driver of a Nissan Altima that was also involved in the accident. The driver took a video on a cell phone.
The agency will also obtain, from the CHP, video from a dash cam. (A CHP officer was one of the first responders on the scene.) Rosekind said the video will be helpful in seeing how the fires on the motorcoach and FedEx truck progressed, and how passengers exited the motorcoach.
Rosekind said that over the next few weeks, the agency's motorcoach group will meet with Silverado Stages, and the human performance and survival factors groups will continue to interview the student passengers who were on the motorcoach, as well as witnesses.
A crash reconstruction will also take place.
For more from Rosekind's media briefing, see the video below.