ORLAND, Calif. – A couple said a FedEx semi was already on fire when it careened across a median, sideswiped their car and slammed into a bus carrying high school students, adding a new twist to the investigation of a crash that killed 10 people.
Initial reports by police indicated the truck swerved to avoid a sedan that was traveling in the same direction in this town about 100 miles north of Sacramento, then went across the median. There was no mention of the truck being on fire.
But Joe and Bonnie Duran, the Seattle-area couple who were in the car, said that like the bus, they were northbound on Interstate 5 on Thursday afternoon. Bonnie Duran, who was driving, said flames were coming from the lower rear of the truck cab.
I just looked to the left, and there it was, coming through right at me at an angle. I can tell I wasn’t going to outrun him, so I just kind of turned to the right, and he hit me, she said. It was in flames as it came through the median. It wasn’t like the whole thing was engulfed. It was coming up, wrapping around him.
The couple were not seriously injured.
A spokeswoman for California Highway Patrol said she could not confirm whether the truck was on fire before the collision until all evidence was gathered. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the condition of the truck before the collision.
When the tractor-trailer collided with the charter bus carrying high school students on a college campus tour in California’s redwood country, the vehicles exploded into towering flames and billowing black smoke. Bodies recovered from the bus were charred beyond recognition.
Five students from the Los Angeles area, three chaperones and the truck and bus drivers died in the crash. Dozens were injured, and several remained hospitalized Saturday, including at least one in critical condition.