DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. (AP) — A tour bus and a semi-truck crashed on a highway in Southern California early Sunday, killing at least seven people and injuring at least 30 others, some critically, the California Highway Patrol said.
CHP Officer Stephanie Hamilton confirmed the deaths to the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs. Firefighters removed more bodies, using ladders to climb into the bus' windows, the newspaper reported, but additional deaths have not been confirmed.
The front of the passenger bus crumpled into the semi-truck's trailer after the wreck about 5:15 a.m. on Interstate 10 outside the desert resort town of Palm Springs, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. Responders used tow trucks to lift the trailer to make it easier to reach the bus, whose front end was demolished.
Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs received 14 patients: five in critical condition, three in serious condition and six with minor injuries, hospital marketing director Rich Ramhoff said.
Eleven people with minor injuries were sent to Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, spokesperson Lee Rice said. JFK Memorial Medical Center in Indio received five patients, all with minor injuries, chief development officer Linda Evans said.
The cause of the crash is not yet known. The bus may have been coming from Red Earth Casino, about 25 miles southeast of Palm Springs, the CHP said. Hamilton said the driver was one of the owners of the tour bus company, USA Holiday, based in the city of Alhambra, near Los Angeles.
The company has one vehicle and one driver, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Records on the agency's website show it had no crashes and one inspection in the two years before Oct. 22 and had a satisfactory safety rating.
A phone message left for the company was not immediately returned. A Facebook message from USA Holiday said it did not have much information about the crash.
The company says on social media that is has more than 25 years of experience in traveling to casinos in Southern California. It posts about trips leaving the Los Angeles area to casinos around the Coachella Valley and Las Vegas.
The CHP says all westbound lanes of the highway were closed and traffic was being diverted.
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team to California to investigate the crash, board spokesman Eric Weiss said.
It comes two years after a FedEx truck veered across an interstate median north of Sacramento and slammed into a bus full of high school students, killing 10 people. In August, a bus in central California hit a highway sign post that tore through the vehicle and left four people dead.