Drivers In Fiery FedEx/School Bus Crash Had Clean Records - FOX 10 News |

Drivers In Fiery FedEx/School Bus Crash Had Clean Records

Orland, CA -

(FOX 11 / AP) UPDATE 4/17: Both drivers in the fiery Northern California crash involving a FedEx truck and bus full of students had clean driving records.

FedEx driver Tim Evans and the driver of the chartered bus, Talalelei Lealao-Taiao, were killed along with eight passengers Thursday when the truck veered across the median of Interstate 5 and smashed into the bus.

California's Department of Motor Vehicles said neither driver had a moving violation, although Lealao-Taiao's license was briefly suspended in 2004, The Sacramento Bee reported. The reason for the suspension was not immediately clear.

The Glenn County coroner has not released official identifications, but the Bee spoke with a member of Evans' extended family, and Lealao-Taiao's employer, Silverado Stages Inc., confirmed her name.

Other than an expression of grief, the company declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

The bus was carrying 44 students from Southern California for a free tour of Humboldt State University on the state's far north coast. Many were hoping to be the first in their families to attend college. Five students and three adult chaperones died, along with the drivers.

Federal and state investigators expect to take months to determine what caused Evans to lose control of his truck, which sideswiped a sedan and collided with the bus. Dozens of injured students escaped through windows before the vehicles exploded into towering flames and billowing smoke in Orland, 100 miles north of Sacramento.

The sedan driver told investigators the truck was in flames before the crash, but the National Transportation Safety Board has said investigators found no physical evidence of a pre-impact fire or other witnesses to confirm that account.

A preliminary NTSB report is expected within 30 days; the entire investigation can last more than a year.

The bus's black-box-style electronic control module was recovered, and investigators will use other tools to reconstruct the truck's speed and maneuvers. Blood tests can tell whether either driver was impaired. The investigation will also review maintenance records and the drivers' medical histories.



Investigation Widens Into Deadly Bus Crash

The CHP and the National Transportation Safety Board not both investigating what caused the FedEx truck to lose control, veer across the median and slam into the Charter bus.

Investigators warning it could take months to conclude what exactly lead to the fiery crash that killed 10 and left 31 others injured.

Mark Rosekind, an NTSB member, said Friday that the agency would be gathering information over the next one to two weeks. He said it will review whether the stretch of California freeway where the bus was struck should have had a barrier along the median to prevent head-on collisions.

In addition, Rosekind said it will determine whether a fire suppression system recommended but not mandated for buses would have made a difference in the crash.

Most survivors were injured, some with critical burns or broken limbs. Those who made it out said they scrambled through a kicked-out window. One man, apparently an admissions counselor, was in flames and later died. Those who could sprinted, others staggered, in a desperate dash to the opposite side of Interstate 5 before the vehicle exploded.

"We knew we were in major trouble," said Steven Clavijo, a high school senior from Santa Clarita, who was trying to nap when he felt the bus shake before a loud boom.

 After he escaped, two more explosions followed. Clavijo and other survivors watched helplessly, knowing their fellow students were trapped in the inferno.

Investigators saying they are using dental records and could be forced to use DNA to positively identified victims in the crash.





UPDATE From Gigi Graciette: EN ESPANOL

A Parent's Worst Nightmare

"It's a parent's worst nightmare."

Before you roll your eyes, groan aloud and mock my use of one of the oldest cliche  around, look at the quotation marks.

I didn't say it.

It was a mom I met here in Chico today. A woman who works at the Eneloe Medical Center where eleven of the victims of yesterday's bus crash were brought.

"It's a parent's worst nightmare", she said as we talked about the crash off-camera. 

And then the tears began rolling down her face. "I have two teenage daughters and I told them last night, 'I know I can't but this is why I want to keep you with me at all times.'"

Sadly for ten sets of parents, their worst nightmare became a reality yesterday when a Fedex truck, for reasons still unknown, crossed over a freeway median and slammed straight into a bus carrying high school students from Southern California to Humboldt State University up north.

A bus full of hope for a better tomorrow, dreams of a greater future and love. Lots of love, for surely all those kids - and adults - were loved, are loved by many.

The truck and the bus basically turned into one giant fireball, trapping those in the front of both vehicles.

And just like that, the truck driver and the bus driver; a college recruiter and a couple recently engaged to be married were all dead.

And along with them, five high school students and all their dreams.

The other thirty or so passengers managed to get out of the burning bus. Bruised and battered, they're lucky to be alive and yes, you can attribute that cliche to me. It's true.

Ten lives lost.

So many countless others changed forever.

It is a parent's worst nightmare....and that is no cliché



UPDATE 12:05pm PDT: (FOX 11 / CNS) Sheriff's officials say they will work throughout the weekend to identify the bodies of those who were killed in the Orland bus crash, but note that since the bodies were severely burned, coroner's officials will be relying on medical and dental records, and possibly on DNA if those records are unavailable.

California Highway Patrol officials say investigators will be examining all of the vehicles involved in the Orland bus crash to see if any mechanical failures contributed to the wreck. It's unclear if the driver of the FedEx truck fell asleep or if there was a mechanical problem with the truck, or
if another accident may have occurred that forced the truck across the freeway median. Investigators will also be looking at weather and road conditions, according to the CHP.

California Highway Patrol officials say 31 people were taken to seven different hospitals following that Orland bus crash.

California Highway Patrol officials say the investigation into that bus crash in Northern California will be a "long, tedious process'' and "we may not have some answers for months.''


Los Angeles School Police Association (LASPA)
LAUSD Family Support Fund: To Benefit Those Affected By This Tragedy
Statements: (213) 216-4912 (English)
Detective Max Gonzalez - LASPA President

Statements: (213) 216-4912 (Spanish)

Detective Rudy Perez - LASPA Vice President

UPDATE: 10:00AM PDT: Out of the 48 students on the bus, 19 went to LAUSD schools. Each school had about 1 or 2 students on the bus. Here's the list.

UPDATE 9:30am PDT: Among the dead, 26-year-old college recruiter Arthur Arzola of Rancho Cucamonga, confirmed by the Sacramento County coroner's office confirmed. He died at the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

A college visit by more than 40 high school students turned tragic Thursday night 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. Both drivers were killed, along with three adult chaperones and five teenage students, according to the California Highway Patrol. The crash happened a little after 5:30 p.m. on the interstate near Orland, a small city about 100 miles north of Sacramento.

VIDEO: Local reaction from LAUSD and families about the fatal crash

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 from the Los Angeles school district, were participating in a program that invites prospective low-income or first-generation college students to visit Humboldt State University in far Northern California.

BLOG: From FOX 11 News Anchor Tony McEwing: Why Did This Happen? How Could It Happen?

Steven Clavijo, a high school senior from Santa Clarita who planned to enroll at the school, was trying to catch a nap on the bus 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.

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.

The bus was among three the university had chartered as part of its two-day Preview Plus program to bring prospective students from Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area to tour the Arcata campus, according to university officials. The other two buses made it to campus, and the university was providing those students with counseling.

Traci Ferdolage, an associate vice president for the university, said the Preview Plus program is designed for students planning to addend Humboldt State and others who are still undecided.

"This is a way for them to connect to the university early," Ferdolage said. "We like them to show up and be connected so they can be successful."

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.

If you're part of the family who is affected by the tragedy and need information, please contact 707-826-6327.

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," California Highway Patrol Officer Lacy Heitman said. "The FedEx vehicle did sideswipe the sedan before it crossed the median."

No one in the car was injured.

A first responder who helped set up a triage at the scene said 36 or 37 people were hurt, with injuries that included burns, broken legs and noses and head lacerations.

Eleven people were taken to Enloe Medical Center in Chico. Two of those patients were listed in critical condition Friday morning, the hospital said.

At least seven people were hospitalized at other facilities. Two of them were in critical condition and five others in fair condition.

Eight crash survivors spent the night at the American Red Cross shelter in Orland, said Jordan Scott, a Red Cross spokesman.

A FedEx spokeswoman said the company was cooperating with authorities as they investigate.

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