LIVINGSTON (CBS13) – The latest on a fatal bus crash in Merced County:
CHP has reopened one lane on northbound Highway 99 after the bus crash that killed five people. The northbound side had been closed to all traffic for the past 11 hours since the crash.
The bus is still stuck around the pole, but crews have taken down the sign.
Crews are working to take down the sign that the bus crashed into. There is some concern that the sign was integrity was compromised in the crash and that it could fall onto workers on the ground.
Authorities are also saying that of the four people transported to a hospital in Turlock, three have already been released with minor injuries. The fourth person has been transferred to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
CHP says some describe the scene as hearing a loud bang, then chaos. Most of the passengers are believed to have been asleep at the time of the crash.
Authorities say that a total of 16 people were injured, separate from the five killed, in the bus crash near Livingston.
Of those 16, six people have been airlifted to area hospitals. One of those people suffered critical injuries.
Revising their original number, authorities are now saying there were only 25 people on board the bus at the time. Only four of those people escaped uninjured.
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke tells The Associated Press that the bus hit the pole of a highway sign head-on early Tuesday, and it sheared through the vehicle before stopping at the first axle “with a great impact.”
Warnke says rescuers brought out “bags of body parts” from the survivors following the crash on State Route 99 just south of Livingston.
The sheriff says the bus operated by Autobuses Coordinados USA was heading to Washington state and was due in Livingston at 1:30 a.m. to change drivers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
A bus crash in Merced County has claimed the lives of at least five passengers.
The crash happened around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday on Highway 99 one mile south of the Hammat Avenue exit, near the city of Livingston, according to a spokesperson with Merced-area California Highway Patrol.
Thirty people were aboard the chartered tour bus at the time. It started in Mexico, stopped in Los Angeles Monday night and was on its way to the Sacramento area on Tuesday. Its eventual destination was Washington, CHP says.
The bus apparently swerved and hit a sign pole, CHP says. The pole went through the bus.
Five people were killed in the crash. At least another six people, some in grave condition, have been transported to the hospital.
CHP says they believe the death toll could continue to climb.
“This is a substantial scene, this is a tragedy, and this will take a substantial amount of time to investigate and to clear,” said Officer Moises Onsurez with Merced CHP.
The bus is registered to Autobuses Coordinados Usa Inc., DMV confirms. The bus driver, identified by CHP as 57-year-old Mario David Vasquez, suffered major injuries in the crash.
Northbound Highway 99 is closed between Liberty and Hammatt avenues, and traffic is backed up to Applegate Road. The stretch of road is expected to stay closed until 7:30 a.m. or later.
Use Highway 140 in Santa Fe even if you’re traveling southbound to avoid the delays on Highway 99, CHP says.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.