Bus Crash: Some Victims' Names Now Known

We now have identities for four of the five students killed.

Twitter photo.
Twitter photo.

An Inglewood charter school's homecoming queen and king were among the 10 people killed when a FedEx truck crossed an Interstate 5 median near the Northern California community of Orland and struck a bus carrying Los Angeles-area students to a weekend college visit.

Family members and school friends confirmed that two of the victims, Denise Gomez and Ismael Jimenez, were students at Animo Charter High School in Inglewood who were the school's homecoming queen and king.

The FedEx driver was identified as Tim Evans, 32, according to The Sacramento Bee, which reported he was a lifelong resident of Sacramento who married his high school sweetheart, had two daughters and helped coach their soccer and softball teams.

The bus driver was identified by family members as Tala Salanoa, age unknown, according to ABC7, which later reported that Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy confirmed that Dorsey High School student Jennifer Bonilla also died in the crash.

Five students and five adults -- the bus driver, the truck driver and three chaperones -- were killed, according to the California Highway Patrol.

One chaperone was identified as Arthur Arzola, 26, of Rancho Cucamonga, who was a college recruiter.

El Monte High School senior Adrian Castro was also killed. Castro was a popular football player at the school.

His mother, Veronica Soriano, told the "Los Angeles Times" that she drove all night to the crash site after she was unable to get information about her son. She was told Friday that authorities were 90 percent sure Castro was killed.

"They just had to get the dental records to confirm," she told the newspaper.

A 17-year-old girl, Marisa Serrato, who attended Norte Vista High School in Riverside, was among those killed, her family told reporters. Her identical twin, Marisol, made the trip on a different bus and was not injured.

The two other chaperones who died previously were identified as Mattison Haywood and her fiance, 29-year-old Michael Myvett. Myvett was a therapist for autistic children at a Torrance facility.

The pair got engaged in Paris on Christmas Day, according to various media reports.

Meanwhile, there were conflicting eyewitness reports of the sequence of events in Thursday's crash.

Bonnie Duran, who was driving a car that was clipped by the FedEx truck just before the big rig struck the bus head-on, told reporters on Friday that the southbound semitrailer was on fire when it crossed into oncoming lanes.

The California Highway Patrol reported that Duran was at the wheel of a northbound Nissan Altima that was struck by the big rig just before it hit the tour bus.

Duran, a suburban Seattle resident whose husband was in the passenger seat, said the flames appeared to be coming from behind the cab of the big rig.

Another witness, 31-year-old Ryan Householder, said in a Sunday news report that the FedEx truck driver appeared to lose control of the rig while changing lanes and that the semitrailer was not on fire before the crash.

Mark Rosekind of the NTSB said investigators were aware of Duran's account and asked other witnesses to come forward.

The California Highway Patrol had previously reported that the tractor, which was towing two trailers, crossed the 60-foot median, struck the white Nissan and then collided with the bus, causing both to explode into flames.

FedEx was cooperating with authorities investigating the crash, according to a company statement.

Rosekind said the bus left 175 feet of  pre-impact tire marks, including some indicative of evasive maneuvers to the right.

Investigators have recovered the electronic control module from the bus, but have yet to download its data and it was unclear if it will yield useful information, Rosekind said at a news briefing.

The electronic control module from the FedEx big rig, a 2007 Volvo that left the southbound lanes at a 10-degree angle and left no skid marks on the median or northbound lanes, was not recoverable, Rosekind said.

Investigators will remove the rig's transmission and also examine its steering box to glean possible clues into what caused the crash, he said.

Blood samples have been taken from both drivers, Rosekind said.

The bus left Los Angeles with one driver at the wheel, but it stopped in Sacramento and a new driver took over, according to Rosekind.

Some of those aboard were ejected from the motor coach, which was a 2014 model equipped with three-point seat belt restraints, he said.

One of the questions investigators will seek to answer is if the restraints would have made a difference in terms of deaths and injuries suffered in the collision, Rosekind said.

He also said the Altima driven by Duran had just passed the bus prior to the crash.

On Friday, counselors were dispatched to Los Angeles Unified School District campuses and other schools across the area, and officials warned that positively identifying those killed in the crash will likely have to be done using dental and medical records, and potentially DNA, delaying the process. They also said it could be months before the cause of the wreck is known.

Officials said 31 people were taken to seven hospitals following the crash. Nine people died at the scene, and one person who suffered severe burns died at a hospital.

The students were scheduled to visit Humboldt State University in Arcata when their bus, which was chartered by the university, collided with the big rig around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. The students had been accepted or were considering attending the university.

The 48 occupants of the bus included 44 students, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District.

There were 19 LAUSD students aboard the bus, according to the district.

They were from 11 LAUSD schools -- Grant, Dorsey, Fremont, Visual Arts and Humanities (one of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools), Manual Arts, Banning, Carson, Chavez, Wilson, Chatsworth and Middle College, LAUSD public information officer Monica Carazo said Friday afternoon.

The university issued a list of all schools represented on the bus and posted it on the website www.humboldt.edu/emergency. In addition to campuses in Los Angeles County the list includes schools in Orange, San Diego and Riverside counties.

A Long Beach Unified School District official said two of its students were aboard the bus, and they suffered injuries described as "non-life- threatening." The Pasadena Unified School District said four students from that district took part in the bus trip, but only one was aboard the bus that crashed. That student suffered leg injuries.

A Pacifica High School senior will need surgery but is "expected to make a full and complete recovery," Garden Grove Unified School District official Amy Stevens said.

The student's parents were with him at a hospital, Stevens said.

Santa Ana Unified School District officials said two students from that district were on the bus and suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Jonathan Gutierrez, a Banning High student who was aboard the bus, tweeted that he had sustained "bruised leg, eyebrow cut open, scratches all over my arm & all my stuff that I packed is burned. I'm beyond thankful that I'm still here."

Investigators said they would work to determine if any mechanical failures contributed to the wreck and would also review weather and road conditions at the time. They said it was unclear if the driver of the FedEx truck may have fallen asleep, if there was a mechanical problem with the truck or if other factors were involved.

Joyce Lopes, the Humboldt State Vice President for Administrative Affairs, said the university had chartered three buses for the campus tour. One was for students from Fresno.

Lopes said the students had been assigned to buses "largely, but not entirely" on an alphabetical basis. Some students with names earlier in the alphabet had left Los Angeles on the second bus, she said, adding that the buses had been due to arrive at the university at around 7 p.m. on Thursday.

The second bus from Los Angeles arrived safely, and counselors were made available for the students, Lopes said.

The bus was owned by Silverado Stages of San Luis Obispo. A statement on the company's website said it was helping authorities gather information regarding the accident.

"Our top priority is making sure the injured are being cared for," the statement said.

Humboldt State University said the prospective students were en route to a spring preview day scheduled for today -- part of a two-day visit to the Arcata campus.

The students were participants in the university-funded Preview Plus program, which brings low-income and first-generation prospective students from the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas to the campus, Humboldt State officials said.

The Red Cross has set up a hotline for families, no matter where they live in California, who have been impacted by the crash. By calling (800) 540- 2000, families will be connected to local Red Cross chapters in their area where caseworkers will be available to meet those who may need assistance with travel or transportation expenses, Terri Corigliano of the Red Cross said.

Caseworkers also will be able to provide mental health support or counseling and assistance to families who may have incurred significant expenses related to the fatal crash, Corigliano said.

--City News Service

Eric April 15, 2014 at 05:34 PM
@SPH- Well good thing it's just your lowly opinion and not the truth. It is not God who causes or plans these events. Senseless tragedies and accidents are the direct result of sin. It is not the victims of these tragedies that are guilty, it is us. It's the sin of the world is why God allows these accidents to happen. And sometimes they're just accidents and nothing more (which more often than not is true). Let's leave your insensitive atheist comments out of this thread and respect those involved.
SPH April 16, 2014 at 03:25 PM
BG777; Your "truth", my "truth"; it's all in the mind of the beholder, bud. I trust you're not driving while talking to God on your cell phone(?).
Eric April 16, 2014 at 03:28 PM
@SPH - LOL... so by that notion if I believe the sky is really green with yellow polka-dots then that's the truth/my truth? No 'bud', there is only one Truth and all else is a lie. I will not continue to argue on this thread however, out of respect for the victims, so we're done here.
SPH April 16, 2014 at 06:31 PM
You mean you're done. Speak for yourself, son. See, that's the problem with evangelicals. They don't like it when someone wont partake of their Kool-Aid. (c;


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