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Investigators Interview Witnesses to Horrific Bus Collision PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 17 April 2014 05:31

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Officials and California Highway Patrol Officers look over the remains of a tour bus that was struck by a FedEx truck on Interstate 5 in Orland, Calif., Friday, April 11. At least ten people were killed and dozens injured in the fiery crash between the truck and a bus carrying high school students on a visit to a Northern California College.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The current phase of the probe into last week's catastrophic busbig rig collision on Interstate 5 is now focused in Los Angeles, where federal investigators planned to interview witnesses and meet with the owners of the bus that carried nine of the 10 people killed in the fiery collision.

The names of all 10 fatalities have been released. The students who died were: Denise Gomez and Ismael Jimenez, the reigning homecoming queen and king at Animo Charter High School in Inglewood; Jennifer Bonilla, an honor student at Los Angeles Dorsey High School who recently had won a college scholarship and was considered a campus leader by school administrators; Adrian Castro, a popular El Monte High School football player who fellow students referred to as a positive role model; Marisa Serrato, a well-liked, church-going attendee of Norte Vista High School in Riverside, whose identical twin, Marisol, made the trip on a different bus and was not injured.

A vigil for Bonilla was held at Dorsey on Wednesday, April 16, beginning with a slideshow in the school’s auditorium, then moving out to the campus Quad. LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy was scheduled to attend.

Bonilla, 17, was an honor student and had earned a college scholarship.

A memorial was held on the campus of the University of La Verne in memory of Arthur Arzola, 26, who was recruiter for Humboldt State University

Arzola, a student in the University of La Verne’s educational counseling program, was scheduled to graduate in May.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at SkyRose Chapel at Rose Hills Memorial Park.

Gabriel Sanchez, director of communications for Green Dot Public Schools, which oversees Animo Inglewood High said no visuals or memorials had been planned for Gomez and Jimenez at the school site.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Candles and flowers are seen at a make-shift memorial, Friday, April 11, for the victims of a multi-vehicle accident that included a tour bus and a FedEX truck crashed on Interstate 5 in Orland, Calif. Ten people were killed and dozens injured in the fiery crash, Thursday, between the truck and a bus seen in background, carrying high school students on a visit to a Northern California College.

The five adults killed in the crash were: School tour bus driver Talalelei Lealao-Taiao, previously identified as Tala Salanoa. Investigators said it appears she slammed on the brakes and tried to swerve to the right to avoid hitting the FedEx big rig hurtling toward the bus; Chaperone Arthur Arzola, 26, of Rancho Cucamonga, who was a college recruiter helping to lead the excursion to Humboldt State; Chaperones Mattison Haywood and her fiance, 29-year-old Michael Myvett, a therapist for autistic children at a Torrance facility. Family members said the couple got engaged during a Christmas vacation in Paris; FedEx truck driver Tim Evans, 32, a lifelong resident of the Sacramento area who had married his high school sweetheart, fathered two daughters and helped coach their soccer and softball teams.

National Transportation Safety Board member Mark Rosekind said the new tour bus carrying 44 Los Angeles-area students, three chaperones and its driver on April 10, to a visit at Humboldt State University in Arcata, had seat belts. He said investigators have fanned out in the Los Angeles area to interview survivors to determine if bus passengers were using seat belts before the crash.

Whether passengers were instructed -- or should have been instructed --on seat-belt use and emergency evacuation are "critical questions ... we'll be looking at," Rosekind said.

Investigators planned to meet with the coach's owner, Silverado Stages of San Luis Obispo, in Los Angeles, he said.

"Silverado Stages is helping the authorities in gathering information regarding the tragic accident that occurred on Thursday evening," the company said on its web site.

Bonnie Duran -- a suburban Seattle resident who reported that the FedEx truck was on fire as it crossed the grass median, hit the Nissan Altima in which she and her husband were passengers and then smashed into the school bus -- also shot video after the crash that has been made available to the NTSB, Rosekind said.

Other witnesses have contradicted Duran's account of the FedEx big rig being on fire before the crash and Rosekind said, "There is no evidence of pre-impact fire located at the crash scene, in the center median or on the highway lanes."

Investigators will study video from a CHP cruiser to find out how survivors escaped through rows of emergency windows as smoke and flames filled the coach, Rosekind said.

AP Photo/Nick Ut

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, right, embraces Los Angeles Schools Superintendent John Deasy John Deasy at news conference Friday, April 11, in Los Angeles, concerning the bus crash that claimed the lives of 10 students in Northern California.

Cellphone records for Evans were being sought to see if he had been using it while driving, Rosekind said.

FedEx is supplying an identical truck to the NTSB for survey work. The 2007 Volvo tractor had two semi-trailers, the front one about half-full, Rosekind said.

Rosekind noted that no median barrier was required on rural freeways where the travel lanes are greater than 50 feet apart. The median of the Orland-area 5 freeway, built in 1964, is 58 feet wide and had not been the scene of a previous crossover crash, he said. Numerous similar stretches of Interstate 5 in the Central Valley recently have had center barriers added by Caltrans.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 06:04

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