College visit turns tragic for Calif. students

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Massive flames are seen devouring both vehicles just after the crash, and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky Thursday April 10, 2014 until firefighters had quenched the fire, leaving behind scorched black hulks of metal. The FedEx tractor-trailer crossed a grassy freeway median in Northern California and slammed into the bus carrying high school students on a visit to a college. At least nine were killed in the fiery crash, authorities said. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lockett)

Massive flames are seen devouring both vehicles just after the crash, and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky Thursday April 10, 2014 until firefighters had quenched the fire, leaving behind scorched black hulks of metal. The FedEx tractor-trailer crossed a grassy freeway median in Northern California and slammed into the bus carrying high school students on a visit to a college. At least nine were killed in the fiery crash, authorities said. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lockett)

Rescuers tend to walking wounded after a fiery crash involving several vehicles, Thursday, April 10, 2014, just north of Orland, Calif., that left at least nine dead. Authorities said it is not yet clear what caused the crash but that it involved a tour bus, a FedEx truck and a Nissan Altima. (AP Photo/The Chico Enterprise-Record, Dan Reidel)

In this photo provided by Andrew Hutchens, authorities work the scene where nine people were killed in a three-vehicle crash involving a bus carrying high school students on a visit to a college, Thursday, April 10, 2014, near Orland, Calif. Authorities said it is not yet clear what caused the crash but that it involved a tour bus, a FedEx truck and a Nissan Altima. (AP Photo/Andrew Hutchens)

Firefighters hose down the wreckage of a bus and a semitruck that collided, Thursday, April 10, 2014, just north of Orland, Calif., that left at least nine dead. Authorities said it is not yet clear what caused the crash but that it involved a tour bus, a FedEx truck and a Nissan Altima. (AP Photo/The Chico Enterprise-Record, Dan Reidel)

Rescue workers, police and firefighters work the scene where nine people were killed in a three-vehicle crash involving a bus carrying high school students on a visit to a college, Thursday, April 10, 2014, near Orland, Calif. Authorities said it is not yet clear what caused the crash but that it involved a tour bus, a FedEx truck and a Nissan Altima. (AP Photo/The Record Searchlight, Greg Barnette)

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ORLAND, Calif. (AP) — A college visit by more than 40 high school students turned tragic when a FedEx tractor-trailer veered across a grassy highway median and slammed into their bus in a fiery wreck that left 10 people dead, authorities said.

Someone kicked out a window on the bus, and many of those aboard squeezed through and ran for their lives to the other side of Interstate 5 before the vehicle exploded in flames.

The 44 teenagers aboard, nearly half of from the Los Angeles school district, were on their way to Humboldt State University in far Northern California.

Steven Clavijo, a high school senior from Santa Clarita who planned to enroll the school, was trying to catch a nap when he felt the vehicle begin to shake from left to right and then he heard a loud boom.

“We knew we were in major trouble,” he said.

After he escaped, two more explosions soon followed. Clavijo and other survivors looked on knowing others were still trapped in the inferno.

Both drivers were killed, along with three adult chaperones and five teenage students, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Towering flames devoured both vehicles just after the crash, and clouds of smoke billowed into the sky until firefighters doused the fire, leaving behind scorched black hulks of metal. Bodies were draped in blankets inside the burned-out bus.

Three buses were traveling as a convoy and only one was involved in the crash, said Earl Perkins, assistant superintendent of operations for the Los Angeles schools district.

Nineteen of the students on the bus were from the Los Angeles schools, Perkins said.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate.

“Every piece of paper associated with this will be looked at,” said Eric M. Weiss, an NTSB spokesman.

The crash happened a little after 5:30 p.m. on the interstate near Orland, a small city about 100 miles north of Sacramento.

The bus was one of two that the admissions office at Humboldt State had chartered to bring prospective students from Southern California to tour the Arcata campus, Humboldt’s Vice President of Administrative Affairs Joyce Lopes said.

The bus was owned by Silverado Stages, a tour bus company based in San Luis Obispo. The company said in a statement on its website Thursday night that it was assisting authorities in gathering information.

“Our top priority is making sure that the injured are being cared for,” the company said.

Crisis counselors were also being made available at Los Angeles schools.

Sabrina Garcia, a high school senior from Los Angeles, said the tour began Thursday, with buses taking students in Southern California on the ride to the campus for a three-day stay. She said she decided to postpone the tour because she had a school project to complete.

“I was devastated when I heard about the crash, and relieved that I didn’t attend,” Garcia said. “I can’t imagine how those kids feel. You think you’re going somewhere safe with your school — and you end up in an accident.”

A CHP dispatcher says the bus and truck were on opposite sides of the freeway when the truck crossed the median and slammed into the bus, causing an explosion and fire.

Investigators say the truck driver might have been trying to avoid a passenger car that was also involved in the crash, which shut down north and southbound traffic on the freeway.

“There was a small white sedan in front of the truck,” Heitman said. “The FedEx vehicle did sideswipe the sedan before

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