A bus full of students headed to view a college at a remote redwood campus, journeying from the low income section of Los Angeles, and filled with hopeful and young motivated students determined to be the first in their families to go to college, had those dreams shattered when that bus never made it to its destination.
On Thursday in an explosive freeway collision that left 10 dead that included students, chaperones and both drivers and hospitalized dozens more, dreams and young lives were extinguished for those who didn’t survive.
While their families and their schools struggle to deal this tragedy, authorities said Friday that they plan to work through the weekend to positively identify the 10 victims, among them five students. Many were unidentifiable, and DNA as well as dental records would need to be accessed and reviewed for positive identifications.
“The thing that makes this ironic and sad is these are the students California really needs,” Timothy White, chancellor of the California State University system, said at a news conference. “Many of them are first generation [college students] and students from low-income who have done all the right things and who have had their dreams taken away by this accident.”
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The Humbolt Preview Plus program chartered three buses bringing prospective students to tour the Arcata campus, according to university officials.
The bus held more than 40 students from various Los Angeles-area high schools. They were headed for Humboldt State University, when a FedEx truck plowed into their bus Thursday afternoon, according to the California Highway Patrol, who reached the scene shortly after the 5:30 p.m. accident about 100 miles north of Sacramento.
Some of the students had already been accepted to the school, others were still deciding if the campus would be the right fit.
“These were students who were graduating, and … were going to a place that was one of their dreams, so that’s quite painful,” said Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy at a separate news conference.
Of the survivors, many were injured 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 get out – 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 peers were trapped in the inferno.
Los Angeles school officials released a list Friday morning of schools attended by Los Angeles Unified School District students who were aboard the bus that crashed in northern California.
“The news of last night’s bus crash near Orland continues to grow more grim and heartbreaking today,” said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, in an email statement.
The injured have yet to be reported on, however, many were rushed and airlifted to local hospitals.
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