ORLAND, Calif. — A new twist was added to the investigation of a crash involving a tour bus and FedEx tractor-trailer that killed 10 people when a couple said the big rig already was on fire when it careened across a median and sideswiped their car before slamming into the bus.
Initial reports by police indicated the truck swerved to avoid a sedan that was traveling in the same direction, then went across the median. There was no mention of the truck being on fire.
But Joe and Bonnie Duran, the Seattle-area couple who were in the car, said, like the bus, they were northbound on Interstate 5 on Thursday afternoon. Bonnie Duran, who was driving, told KNBC-TV in Los Angeles that flames were coming from the lower rear of the truck cab.
“I just looked to the left, and there it was coming through right at me at an angle. I can tell I wasn’t going to outrun him so I just kind of turned to the right and he hit me,” she said. “It was in flames as it came through the median. ... It wasn’t like the whole thing was engulfed. It was coming up wrapping around him.”
Officer Lacey Heitman, a spokeswoman for California Highway Patrol, said she could not confirm if the truck was on fire before the collision until all evidence was gathered. National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said the agency is investigating the condition of the truck before the collision, including if it was on fire. FedEx spokeswoman Bonnie Harrison wouldn’t comment on the reports the truck was on fire.
When the tractor-trailer collided with the charter bus carrying high school students to a college campus tour in California’s redwood county, the vehicles exploded into towering flames and billowing black smoke. Bodies recovered from the bus were charred beyond recognition.