Deadly bus crash: Valhalla High School and Gompers Prep seniors among the survivors

SAN DIEGO - Two San Diego-area students survived a fiery Northern California bus crash that killed five other high-schoolers and five adults, authorities reported today.

The local youths, who both suffered minor injuries, attend Gompers Preparatory Academy in Chollas View and Valhalla High School in East County, near El Cajon, district officials said.

Student from Valhalla High School

Harley Hoyt is a senior at Valhalla High School. The school district said "we understand him to be safe and recovering from minor injuries." His followers on Twitter have been offering him well wishes.

Student from Gompers Preparatory Academy

A senior at the academy ended up with minor injuries and is now out of the hospital, the school said.

The Chief Business Officer of the charter school in Webster said the student called his class director from the hospital last night.

"He said that he was in an accident and that he was very happy to be alive, and that he was getting his injuries addressed," said Chief Business Officer Jenny Parsons.

Parsons declined to release the boy's name, but said he is a senior. He was able to escape the burning bus without being seriously hurt.

"He said it was very hectic, and he,, with others, they found a way to get through a window and get through, out of the bus as quickly as he could," said Parsons.

Gompers is a small charter school. Most of the students live within walking distance. There are only 92 students in the senior class. Counselors were made available for students who wanted to talk about what happened.

 "We have a very close knit senior class so our top priority last night was to address their emotional needs and make sure they knew that he was doing OK and would be back," said Parsons.

The student was released from the hospital this morning. His family was driving him back to San Diego on Friday.

"While he was definitely shaken up, he had a very positive attitude and had formed some friendships already with the other students who survived the crash," said Parsons.

The student had been accepted to Humboldt State University in the fall. The weekend trip was a chance for first generation college kids and low income students to see the campus.

"It's really sad news because these are wonderful opportunities for our students to get out of San Diego and visit universities and for this particular student, he is so excited to be admitted to Humboldt State and we're hoping that dream can still be a reality," said Parsons.

Statement from Gompers Preparatory Academy

Gompers Preparatory Academy is deeply saddened by the tragic accident that occurred the evening of April 10, 2014 in Northern California, involving a bus filled with prospective students from Southern California heading to Humboldt State University.

While this was not part of a GPA organized field trip, one GPA student was traveling on the bus involved in the accident. We are relieved to report that our student sustained only minor injuries in this crash. He was treated at a hospital overnight, released this morning, and returning to San Diego today with his family.

The entire GPA family extends our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to all those involved and affected by this event. Our GPA Family Support Center has mobilized and is fully prepared to assist any students and staff in need of counseling. Our school community, Board Members, and UCSD partners are working together to provide updated information and assistance to anyone in need of support. GPA is open today, April 11, 2014. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at Gompers Preparatory Academy (619) 263-2171.

The Crash

Students were en route to tour Humboldt State University when the bus collided with a big rig on Interstate 5 near the town of Orland around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The adults killed in the crash included the two drivers and three chaperones accompanying Los Angeles-area high school seniors, the CHP reported.

Forty-four students were aboard.

The deceased have not yet been publicly identified, although KABC in Los Angeles confirmed the identity of one of those killed in the crash. He was 26-year-old Arthur Arzola, a recruiter for Humboldt University. He died at a hospital in Sacramento.

Nineteen of the students were from 16 Los Angeles Unified School District campuses -- San Fernando, Grant, Dorsey, Fremont, City of Angels, Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, Manual Arts, Banning, Carson, Chavez, Diego Rivera, Belmont, Wilson, Chatsworth, Jefferson, and Middle College.

Other teens aboard the bus included several students from Riverside County, Long Beach, El Monte and Orange County.

CHP spokeswoman Tracy Hoover said 34 of the bus occupants were hospitalized. More than 15 of those patients were being treated for major injuries, according to the state agency.

The collision occurred when a southbound FedEx big rig towing two trailers crossed into the northbound lanes, sideswiping a car and colliding head-on with the tour bus.

The injured were being treated at five area hospitals, Joyce Lopes, the Humboldt State vice president for administrative affairs said. She said the university had chartered three buses for the campus tour. One was for students from Fresno. The other two carried students from the Southland.

The bus was owned by Silverado Stages of San Luis Obispo. A statement on the company's website said it was helping authorities gather information regarding the accident and that the "top priority is making sure the injured are being cared for."

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were sent to the site.

Statement from FedEx

“Like so many of you, I have watched with great sadness the reports of the tragic accident involving a FedEx Freight vehicle and a tour bus in Northern California.

First and foremost, I want to express my deepest personal sympathies and the condolences of over 300,000 other FedEx team members to everyone involved in this accident, including the families of the students and others who lost their lives and those who were injured and the families and friends of the FedEx Freight driver who died in the crash.

It will take some time to fully understand exactly how this accident occurred and why.   In the meantime, I want everyone to know that we at FedEx are committed to providing every resource necessary to assist investigators in their efforts to understand what happened.

Just as important, we are committed to providing support for our team members, their families and the families of all of those who lost their lives.  This is a tragic day for these families, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Frederick W. Smith
Chairman and CEO, FedEx Corp.

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