California Bus Collision Hits Close to Home

We were greatly saddened to hear the news that on Thursday, April 10th, a FedEx truck driving on Interstate 5 in Northern California near the city of Orland crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with a bus carrying prospective college students and their adult chaperones. According to NBC Los Angeles, the passengers aboard were en route to a college tour at Humboldt State University. Nine people were killed instantly at the scene. The tenth victim later died at a hospital.

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The accident hit especially close to home for us, because a student from West Ranch High School in Santa Clarita was onboard that bus. It is with grateful hearts that we have learned that 18 year old Senior Steven Clavijo survived the accident.

However, for many of the families involved, the nightmare of this accident will continue to play out for many months, as authorities attempt to determine what happened leading up to the crash.

As an attorney with experience representing many clients involved in train accidents, truck accidents, and auto accidents, I find this tragic accident to leave behind many unanswered questions. A key element of this case will be causation. That is, who or what caused or contributed to the death and injuries of the driver and his passengers?

The complexity of the issues in this accident are similar to those our firm has dealt with in the Chatsworth train wreck.

In 2008, a Metrolink commuter train carrying 225 people collided with a freight train, killing 25 people and injuring over 100 others. There is a common thread in the train wreck and the highway crash, as it relates to the exit routes made available to passengers aboard the train and the school bus.

All public school buses in the state of California are designed with a full exit door at the rear of the bus. Once the fire aboard the tour bus began, the primary escape route was blocked. The passengers then had to find the window that was marked as an emergency exit, figure out how to unlatch it, and then open it, crawl through, and jump out of a window that was very high off of the ground. The passengers were doing all of this while a fire was blazing at their backs.

The failure to provide an easily accessible secondary emergency escape route may have contributed to the number of deaths and the severity of the injuries of those aboard the tour bus. When liability is assessed, these factors must be an important issue discussed. Defective design of the tour bus’s safety system should be considered as an additional cause of action.

Our thoughts are with the families as the process of unraveling the deadly crash begins. We know first hand how challenging this process can be, taking a toll on everyone involved. If anyone in the community has questions about this accident, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We want to use our expertise to offer support during this difficult time.

View other blog post about truck accidents.

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