Ten people were believed to have been killed when a charter bus collided head-on with a pickup truck in the Yucaipa area last night on a highway well-known to Southern Californians as a gateway to regional mountains and ski resorts.
The crash on highway 38 near Bryant Street in Mentone was reported by the San Bernardino County Fire Department at 7:09 p.m. but reports indicated it actually happened closer to 6:30.
Another vehicle …
… was also involved in the collision, Fox 11 news reported: The pickup truck appeared to be towing a trailer, the station's Christine Gonzalez said.
San Bernardino County Fire Battalion Chief Ron Walls told the station that there were 43 people on the bus, with “17 immediate patients.”
Subsequent reports, including this one, put the number injured at 38.
BREAKING NEWS: Photo of Tour Bus Crash Where Part of the Bus's Roof Peeled Off.Via SKY5 twitter.com/tarawallis/sta…
— ktla (@KTLA) February 4, 2013
At least two TV stations reported that the death toll had reached 10.
Reports indicated the bus was from Tijuana; NBC Los Angeles said a Mexican consular official was at the scene of the crash.
We reached out to the CHP's Inland Division but were unable to get through to anyone with more info.
[Added at 11:58 a.m.]: Fox 11 News' last broadcast indicated the bus was filled with Mexican tourists, headed down from a visit to the mountains, when it crashed and overturned.
KTLA News ran a headline reading “Witnesses: Bus Driver Appeared To Be Speeding, Riding Brakes Before Crash,” with its video report (click the link) offering some commentary on that theory.
[Update at 11:58 a.m. Monday]: The San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner's Department would not speak regarding how many deceased authorities were looking at.
The California Highway Patrol maintained that 8 were confirmed dead, although an officer acknowledged to the Weekly that it was “very possible” there were more fatalities at an area hospital. He said, “They're still trying to sort out identities of who's who.”
The Whittier Daily News reports that at least two bodies remained in the wreckage today.
The CHP says the accident was reported at 6:32 p.m. last night as the bus was coming down from the mountains.
Contrary to initial reports (including ours), it doesn't appear the bus collided head-on with a pickup. Rather, a CHP officer tells us, “the bus lost control and overturned several times.”
The Los Angeles Times today reported that the vehicle had been cited repeatedly in recent months for alleged “poor maintenance.”
[Update at 5:01 p.m.]: The CHP now tells the Weekly that seven have been “confirmed” dead as a result of the crash. We got our original number of 10 from a couple reports from the scene. Apologies.
The CHP this afternoon issued a statement — it actually says eight people died — to the media explaining some of what happened:
On February 3, 2013, at approximately 6:32 pm, a 1996 VanHool Bus, driven by Norbert B. Perez (52) of San Ysidro, CA, was traveling westbound on State Route 38, just east of Bryant Street, at an undetermined rate of speed. As the bus traveled west (downhill), the driver experienced a loss of control allowing the front end of the bus to strike the rear of a Saturn sedan traveling within the same lane. The bus continued out of control as it approached a turn in the roadway and veered into the opposing lane where it collided with a blue Ford pickup truck pulling a trailer, traveling eastbound (uphill). As a result of the collision, the bus rolled over causing several passengers to be ejected. The bus was then deflected back into the eastbound lane after striking a large boulder adjacent to the roadway. Upon striking the boulder, the bus
became upright and came to a stop blocking both lanes of SR-38.
The exact cause, the CHP stated, was still under investigation.