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 as of 7:30 a.m. Firefighters also removed additional bodies, using ladders to climb into the bus’ windows, the newspaper reported.
Photos show the front of the passenger bus crumpled entirely into the semi-truck’s trailer after the wreck on Interstate 10 in Desert Hot Springs, near the desert resort town of Palm Springs. Responders used tow trucks to lift the trailer to provide easier access to the bus, whose front end was demolished.
At least 30 victims have been taken to hospitals. 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, near the Salton Sea, the CHP said. Hamilton said the driver was one of the owners of the tour bus company, Los Angeles-based USA Holiday.
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 and Facebook message left for the company was not immediately returned. Its Facebook page has postings 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.