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At least 8 people killed in Calif. bus crash

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Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013 10:48 am | Updated: 12:17 pm, Mon Feb 4, 2013.

YUCAIPA, Calif. (AP) -- A tour bus carrying dozens of men, women and children from Tijuana, Mexico, crashed in the mountains of Southern California, killing at least eight of the people who had spent Sunday at a winter recreation area, authorities said.

Crews worked through the night to recover the dead, but one body remained aboard the bus early Monday, said Rocky Shaw, a San Bernardino County coroner's investigator.

Officials hadn't been able to retrieve the body because the front end of the bus was dangling over the edge of the roadside.

Investigators were trying to pick up any personal property to help identify victims.

More than three dozen people were injured, and at least 17 were still hospitalized, including at least five in critical condition. One is a girl.

The accident occurred about 6:30 p.m. Sunday about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. It left State Route 38 littered with body parts and debris, and the bus sideways across both lanes with its windows blown out, front end crushed and part of the roof peeled back like a tin can.

The crash occurred when the speeding bus rear-ended a Saturn sedan on the mountain road, flipped and hit a Ford pickup truck, said California Highway Patrol spokesman Mario Lopez.

One person in the truck was injured. The fate of the passengers in the car was not clear, but at least two people were in the Saturn, Lopez said.

Investigators will determine if mechanical failure or driver error was to blame. The bus driver, who survived but was injured, told investigators the vehicle had brake problems.

"It appears speed was a factor in this collision," Lopez said.

Lettering on the 1996 bus indicated it was operated by Scapadas Magicas LLC, based in National City, Calif. Federal transportation records show the company is licensed to carry passengers for interstate travel and that it had no crashes in the past two years. A call to the company was not immediately returned.

No one answered the door at the company's National City office in a sprawling complex that houses more than 1,300 storage lockers and about 30 small offices. Greg Etter, general manager of Acropolis Space Center, said the company didn't run buses out of the facility. He declined to comment further on the tenant.

Jordi Garcia, a manager for InterBus Tours, said his company organized Sunday's trip. He told U-T San Diego that 38 people departed Tijuana at 5 a.m. for a day of skiing at Big Bear.

"The information that we have is that the bus' brakes failed and the accident occurred," he said.

Investigators had not yet obtained the passenger list from inside the bus.

InterBus Tours offered condolences to all those affected through a statement posted on its Facebook page, which also had a posting from last week advertising the trip to Big Bear, a lakeside recreation area at an elevation of 6,750 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains.

"InterBus Tours and its entire team are working to support our customers and their families who unfortunately suffered an accident in the mountains of Big Bear in San Bernardino. Personnel from InterBus are in our offices as well as in hospitals where we know authorities have taken the injured," the statement said.

It noted the vehicle was subleased and has insurance to cover such an accident.

After the crash, it took nearly two hours to clear all the people who could be transported to hospitals and go through the wreckage, said Kathleen Opliger, incident commander and San Bernardino County fire battalion chief.

Route 38 runs through San Bernardino National Forest to Big Bear. The accident occurred as the bus was headed south and leaving the forest.

"It happened so fast I don't know how it all happened," a passenger who declined to give her name told the San Bernardino Sun (http://bit.ly/XiWWdu ). "This was supposed to be a good day out with my companions and then this happened."

Patients were taken to several hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.

Jennifer Resch-Silvestri, a spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, said the hospitals began working together before dawn to better track victims and make it easier for family members to learn the condition and location of relatives.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to the scene.

The California crash came less than a day after a bus carrying 42 high school students and their chaperones slammed into an overpass in Boston. Massachusetts state police said 35 people were injured after the driver had directed the bus onto a road with a height limit.

YUCAIPA, Calif. (AP) -- The company that organized a bus trip that ended with a deadly crash in the mountains of Southern California has offered its condolences to all of those who have been affected.

InterBus Tours of Tijuana, Mexico, says in a Facebook posting Monday that the company feels deeply about the accident and is working with the local Mexican Consulate to help families.

At least eight people were killed and more than three dozen others were injured in the Sunday evening crash which involved two other vehicles on State Route 38 about 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

The tour group was returning from a trip to Big Bear Lake, a winter destination for skiing.

The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a team of investigators.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A tour bus carrying dozens of men, women and children from Tijuana, Mexico, crashed in the mountains of Southern California after spending Sunday at a winter recreation area, killing at least eight and as many as 10 people, authorities said.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Mario Lopez said Monday morning that the number of eight confirmed deaths was expected to rise because the coroner was just starting to remove bodies from the mangled vehicles and also take away the remains of those who were ejected, which were covered by yellow blankets.

More than three dozen people were injured. At least 17 were still hospitalized Monday morning, including at least five in critical condition, one of them a girl.

The accident occurred around 6:30 p.m. Sunday about 80 miles east of Los Angeles. It left State Route 38 littered with debris and the bus sideways across the two lanes with its windows blown out, front end crushed and part of the roof peeled back like a tin can. The bus is perched somewhat precariously at the edge of an embankment.

"It's really a mess up there with body parts," said California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Profant.

The speeding bus rear-ended a Saturn sedan on the mountain road, flipped and then hit a Ford pickup, Lopez said. One person in the truck was injured. The fate of the passengers in the car was not clear, but at least two people were in it, Lopez said.

Investigators will determine if mechanical failure or driver error was to blame, Lopez said. The bus driver, who survived but was injured, told investigators the vehicle had brake problems, he said.

"It appears speed was a factor in this collision," Lopez said.

Lettering on the 1996 model bus indicated that it was operated by Scapadas Magicas LLC based in National City, Calif. Federal transportation records show that the company is licensed to carry passengers for interstate travel and that it had no crashes in the past two years. A call to the company was not immediately returned.

Jordi Garcia, a manager for InterBus Tours, said his company ran Sunday's trip. He told U-T San Diego that 38 people departed Tijuana at 5 a.m. for a day of skiing at Big Bear.

"The information that we have is that the bus' brakes failed and the accident occurred," he said.

Investigators had not yet obtained the passenger list from inside the bus, Lopez said.

It took nearly two hours to clear all the people who could be transported to hospitals and go through the wreckage, said Kathleen Opliger, incident commander and San Bernardino County fire battalion chief.

Aside from those transferred, "we are 100 percent confirmed we won't find a survivor," she said.

Route 38 runs through the San Bernardino National Forest and leads to Big Bear. The accident occurred as the bus was headed south and leaving the forest.

"It happened so fast I don't know how it all happened," a passenger who declined to give her name told the San Bernardino Sun (http://bit.ly/XiWWdu ). "This was supposed to be a good day out with my companions and then this happened."

Patients were taken to several area hospitals with injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.

Jennifer Resch-Silvestri, a spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Bernadino County, said the hospitals began working together before dawn to try to better track victims, an effort to make it easier for family members to find out the conditions and locations of their relatives.

Seven of the nine people taken to Kaiser Permanente were discharged and two were admitted, she said. Arrowhead Regional Medical Center had two women in critical condition and two other patients in stable condition. Redlands Community Hospital had one patient in critical condition and five other patients with injuries ranging from cuts to broken bones. Loma Linda Medical Center had a man and a girl under age 18 in critical condition, a man in serious condition, and a woman and a girl under 18 in fair condition.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday it was sending a team to the scene.

The California crash comes less than a day after a bus carrying 42 high school students and their chaperones slammed into an overpass in Boston. Massachusetts state police said 35 people were injured and that the driver had directed the bus onto a road with a height limit.

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