Yesterday, thirty-four French tourists were traveling in a private charter bus going south on Route 101 in California. No other vehicles were close by. At 3:30 pm, for some reason, the bus crashed into the guard rail on an overpass. Four passengers were thrown out of the bus and one fell over the edge of the overpass to railroad tracks about 70 feet below.
Five Deaths So Far
That passenger and two others died at the accident scene. Two more died at local hospitals. The driver survived. Most of the passengers were injured, either seriously or mildly. Four were less than 18 years old. The injured passengers were airlifted to nine hospitals for treatment, some in Fresno and others in the San Francisco Bay Area.
When the California Highway Patrol (CHP) arrived at the accident site, the bus was on its side and luggage, bodies and debris were strewn all around. The group had been visiting the U.S. since April 19 and was on its way from San Francisco to LAX to return home.
Route 101 was closed down in both directions for about two hours, at which time the northbound lanes opened but the southbound lanes were still closed at the time of the news report. The Red Cross has been helping to arrange accommodation for three families in the bus who were released from hospital after minor treatments.
There has been no comment from the bus company, Orion Pacific, which is a family-owned charter coach company in Orange, CA. It has been operating since 1985 but at this point nothing is known of its safety record. No doubt the accident investigation will discover that.
Single-vehicle accidents are perhaps more puzzling to understand. One might assume the driver was at fault, but there could have been debris on the road or poor road design. This accident happened during daylight hours so presumably lighting was adequate.