Orland, CA Truck And Bus Collision, Apr 2014
IN AN INSTANT, A BUS IN CALIFORNIA BECAME A FIERY TRAP.
Orland, Calif. - Harley Hoyt, an 18-year-old senior at Valhalla High School in San Diego County, was listening to his headphones to pass the time during the 12-hour bus ride up California's Interstate
5 when he was catapulted forward, his face smashing against the seat in front of him.
All around him, people were screaming. The front of the bus was "like an accordion," he said. A truck outside was on fire. He kicked the emergency door open and jumped out.
"Everyone was piling out the windows," he said. "It was like a battle scene. People were screaming, crying, pulling out their hair. Everyone was bloodied. My clothes were covered in blood."
Mr. Hoyt was among the 43 high school students from urban corners of Southern California - Torrance, El Monte, South Los Angeles - who had boarded the bus bound for another world: They had been accepted to Humboldt State University, a countryside college in California's northern reaches, and were headed there for a recruiting visit. Many would be the first members of their family to attend college.
Then, as the bus rolled north past Sacramento on Thursday evening, the long trip turned tragic in a violent instant. A FedEx tractor-trailer jumped a grassy divider and barreled into the bus, killing 10 people, including both drivers. As metal and glass crashed around them, the panicked teenagers escaped through windows and ran to safety along the highway. The front of the bus exploded in flames and filled with smoke. Five students and three of their chaperones did not make it out alive. More than 30 other passengers were injured.
Mr. Hoyt said a group of terrified students ran across the freeway and watched, helpless, as flames and charcoal-gray smoke engulfed the bus, where friends and classmates remained trapped.
"I'm so grateful I'm alive," Mr. Hoyt said. "I was in the back. One of my buddies that I had just met, he was up front. I'm sure he didn't make it. The chaperone and his fiancée, they didn't make it."
Mr. Hoyt was taken to Glenn Medical Center, where he spent the night and was released Friday afternoon.
The students involved in the accident were taking part in Preview Plus, an annual program in which Humboldt State provides transportation and lodging to allow hundreds of disadvantaged students who have been accepted to the university to visit the campus.
The bus was one of three chartered by Humboldt State to bring high school students to the campus on Thursday.