by Emily Engle
Thursday night, April 10, a FedEx tractor-trailer skidded over the Interstate 5 median, sideswiped a sedan, and collided with a school bus carrying high school seniors. After the catastrophic collision, the two vehicles burst into flames and both eventually exploded. The accident occurred in northern California about 100 miles north of Sacramento. Ten people were killed in the accident: 5 students, 3 chaperones, and the drivers of both vehicles; dozens more of the students were injured, though many survived by escaping through the bus’s windows.
The school bus had been travelling from LA to Humboldt State University and was a part of a group of 3 buses all carrying high school seniors participating in a program called “Spring Preview Plus,” which aimed to give low-income and first-generation college students a chance to experience college life.
Several of the bodies recovered from the bus were initially charred beyond recognition but have since been identified. Other victims were found to have been thrown from the bus when officials arrived on the scene. Because of this, members of the National Transportation Safety Board hope that this tragedy will expedite the legal process when it comes to enacting safety regulations for larger vehicles such as buses.
Though the vehicles were both on fire when officials arrived to help after the accident, the origin of the fire was hard to determine. The driver of the sedan that had been sideswiped reported that the truck was already on fire as it careened across the interstate, but no physical evidence from the scene or other witness accounts to corroborate this. Also because both vehicles were so thoroughly destroyed by the fire, their contents are difficult to examine.
Officials report that the investigation could last well over a year and it may be difficult to determine why the truck driver lost control, though as a clue, evidence shows he made no attempt to apply his brakes during the accident. It is unknown if either driver was impaired at the time of the accident, though both were later found to have clean driving records. Electronics were recovered from the school bus for further analysis, but the truck’s contents were beyond salvage.