13 dead in tour bus crash in California

Published 10/23 2016 10:36AM

Updated 10/23 2016 02:59PM

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At least 13 people were killed when a bus crashed into the back of a truck on Interstate 10 north of Palm Springs before sunrise today.

Rescuers used a crane to search the wreckage for more victims in the wreckage, which peeled and compressed the coach cabin off its undercarriage back, nearly half of the vehicle's length.

Five critically-injured passengers were at the nearest trauma center, at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, six miles south of the wreck. Between 30 to 31 people were taken by fleets of ambulances to three hospitals across the Coachella Valley, the CHP and hospitals said.

Pictures from the scene showed firefighters using ladders to get into the passenger compartment of the bus, which had been peeled back from the vehicle's undercarriage about one third of its length. ``The intrusion into the bus compartment is significant,'' CHP officer Stephanie Hamilton said. ``We know there are multiple fatalities, we cannot give a (final) amount, but that number is going to change,'' she said.

The crash was at 5:17 a.m. on the westbound 10 past the Indian Avenue interchange, about two miles before the Route 62 interchange. That is on the long uphill stretch into San Gorgonio Pass, next to several windmill farms. Desert Regional Medical Center says they are treating 14 patients, all adults, five are in critical condition, three are in serious condition and six had minor injuries.

Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage had treated 11 patients with minor injuries, and JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio had treated five patients with minor injuries.

The bus was owned by a Los Angeles company, USA Holiday, says CHP. California Public Utilities Commission records indicate that company and its owner, Vides Teogeo Elias, was cited in a 2008 crackdown at LAX for violations on state regulations.

At the crash site today, the CHP said the bus company's owner was driving the bus, but was not injured. The bus had departed a Coachella Valley casino, possibly the Red Earth Casino near the Salton Sea and was heading toward the Inland Empire and greater Los Angeles, but it was not immediately disclosed exactly where its passengers had been, or were headed.

All traffic on the westbound 10 freeway was detoured off the freeway at the Indian Avenue off-ramp. Hamilton said the CHP was bringing in its specialized unit that investigates major crashes, and the westbound freeway would be closed for some time.

Story contributed from KESQ

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.