IRWINDALE (CNS) – Some 52 people, some of whom were airlifted to trauma centers, suffered minor to moderate injuries today when a tour bus clipped a car and overturned on the side of the eastbound Foothill (210) Freeway in Irwindale, but there were no fatalities.
The Da Zhen bus rolled over around 10 a.m. near Irwindale Avenue east of the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway. At least 10 ambulances responded to the scene, along with at least three medical helicopters to carry patients to area hospitals.
All lanes of the freeway were temporarily closed to accommodate medical helicopters. Around 11 a.m., however, all westbound lanes were reopened, along with the eastbound carpool lane.
Los Angeles County fire Capt. Tom Richards said earlier that of the injured, 33 were initially classified as minor, while six were airlifted in “serious but not necessarily critical condition.” He said another 13 had minor injuries.
Most of the injuries involved cuts and bruises and some fractures, according to fire and hospital officials. The victims were primarily older adults, believed to be between roughly 60 and 80 years old. Many of the injured did not speak English.
The bus was believed to be heading for a casino, possibly the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in Highland.
Of the patients who were airlifted, five were taken to Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center. The hospital’s Dr. Leo Rodriguez said the patients were being treated for “blunt force trauma.”
“From a rollover bus accident, I think you can imagine the types of injuries we would see from something like that,” he said.
According to broadcast reports, 11 people were taken to Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in Glendora, three were taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena and a half-dozen were taken to both Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina and Inter-Community hospital in Covina.
An official cause of the crash was not released, but 21-year-old Melody Bausa, a student at San Diego State University, said the bus clipped her Hyundai Elantra and spun out of control.
“I guess the bus was changing lanes behind me on my passenger side, and I guess it just clipped me,” she said. “I was trying not to hit anybody else, so I guess we just all kind of swerved.”
She said she ran to the bus after it rolled to assist passengers.
“I was just hoping that they were OK, because they were all kind of older, so I just wanted to get them out of there and make sure they were OK,” she said.
A flatbed truck initially was stopped at the scene of the rollover, but it was apparently not involved in the crash and was driven away from the scene.
“It’s just too early at this point to determine how the accident happened,” CHP spokesman Officer Saul Gomez told CNS. “We are going to keep the bus as evidence and we will assign motor vehicle specialists to this case.”
Gomez said investigators will check the records of the bus, the driver and safety record of the Da Zhen Travel Agency.
“Eventually, we will be able to determine whether the accident was caused by a mechanical problem with the bus, driver error or some other circumstance we’re not yet aware of,” Gomez said. “But I don’t think we will have any firm details of how the accident happened for another four to five hours.”
A married couple who witnessed the accident told Fox 11 the bus was changing lanes going from the number 2 lane to the number 3 lane when the accident occurred.
“I don’t think the bus driver saw a black Hyundai that was in the number 3 lane, Marla told Fox 11. “He (the bus driver) clipped the passenger side of the Hyundai. The driver of the car was able to maintain control but the bus driver seemed to over correct and then crashed and overturned.”
Her husband Mike told the station the scene immediately after the crash was utter chaos.
“I went to the back of the bus and began helping people out. I was worried the bus would go up (in flames),” he said. ”People were hurt, crying and bleeding,” he added.
The Da Zhen Travel Agency is based in Monterey Park. It was unclear how many people were on the bus.
A secretary at the agency told CNS that her supervisors were assisting the CHP with the tour bus crash and all had gone to the scene.
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