The day after a FedEx truck slammed into a tour bus filled with high school students in Northern California, killing 10 people including five teenage students who were on their way to a college recruitment event, witnesses and survivors spoke about the deadly crash.
"Everyone was piling out the windows," Harley Hoyt, an 18-year-old senior at Valhalla High School in San Diego County, told The New York Times, of the bus, which burst into flames after hitting the FedEx truck that had swerved across the center-divider on Interstate 5 in the town of Orland, Calif., Thursday night.
The bus was taking about 48 students and several chaperones from Los Angeles to Arcata to tour the Humboldt State University campus. It was one of three buses of students. The other two had arrived safely at the destination.
"It was like a battle scene," Hoyt added. "People were screaming, crying, pulling out their hair. Everyone was bloodied. My clothes were covered in blood ... I'm so grateful I'm alive. 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."
"He's got bigger plans for Harley, because he definitely had an angel with him," Hoyt's father told KGO-TV.
"It was a very surreal moment," Jonathan Gutierrez, 17, told NBC's "Today" show. "All of a sudden I heard people screaming."
A couple who lives close to where the accident took place came to the Veteran's Center to do whatever they could. "We wanted to see if we could come and give them a hug, or tell them that we're praying for them," volunteer Juliana Gregory was quoted as saying.
After the crash, about 34 people were taken by air and land ambulances to hospitals, according to Reuters.
"They are traumatized, absolutely," a patrol spokeswoman, Tracy Hoover, was quoted as saying. "Most of them have scratches, cuts, burns, contusions and lacerations … The big rig and the bus were both engulfed in flames. You are talking about two vehicles that are destroyed. There is hardly anything left of the truck."
Investigators are trying to find out what went wrong with the FedEx truck.
"We don't know whether the Fed-Ex driver had fallen asleep, whether he experienced a mechanical failure with his vehicle or whether there was a separate collision on the southbound side that caused him to lose control," said Lieutenant Scott Fredrick, the lead Highway Patrol investigator.
However, two witnesses said the truck was on fire before it hit the bus.
"I was heading along the outside lane. And I looked over and saw the FedEx truck coming right for me and it was on fire already," Bonnie Duran, whose vehicle was the first to be hit by the truck, told KPIX 5 Friday.
Her husband Joe said they couldn't get out of the way, "It was like a 3D movie – you see a Mack truck coming at you. It was unbelievable. We didn't even gave time to react."