One Boyle Heights high school senior is recovering from minor injuries today after the bus she was riding was involved in a fiery crash Thursday evening near Orland, Calif.
Evelyn Guzman, a senior at Alliance Media Arts and Entertainment Design High School in East Los Angeles, was on one of three buses filled with prospective college students visiting Humboldt State University for a college tour when it was hit by a FedEx big rig on the Interstate 5.
“It was a scary experience”¦the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Guzman, who sustained minor injuries to her back, scrapes and bruises on her arms and legs and swelling to her face.
“I was very happy I made it out of that bus, but for a moment, I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”
Guzman, who was seated in the middle of the bus, describes the scene as “ugly.” “The seats two rows in front of me were burning and there was smoke everywhere.” She was able to escape by rushing to the back, feeling for an open window and throwing herself out.
“I looked back and I heard people screaming but I couldn’t go back,” recalls Guzman. “There were people on the bus that I had talked to five minutes [before] and they didn’t make it out of the bus.”
The 17-year-old student was transported to a local hospital along with five other students and released at about 2 the next morning. She was picked up by family members and returned to her home in Boyle Heights at about 11 a.m. Friday.
Five students and five adults have been confirmed dead.
Arthur Arzola, a 26-year-old counselor at Humbolt State University and Adrian Castro, a senior from El Monte High School are among the dead. Authorities expect it will take several days to identify the victims due to the severity of their burns.
Andrea Rivas, another student from Alliance Media Arts High School was aboard one of the buses that arrived safely.
“Everyone at [Alliance Media Arts High School] was shocked and grateful that our students were ok,” said Alejandra Valdez, a Boyle Heights Beat youth reporter and schoolmate of both Guzman and Rivas. Valdez says she was supposed to take the trip with her friends, but didn’t do so because there was no space left on the bus.
“My group of friends and I were still feeling a little scared. It was a lot to take in in a matter of minutes.”
Nineteen students from approximately 16 Los Angeles Unified schools were involved in the crash, said Senior Deputy Superintendent Michelle King in a news conference.
*updated 10 p.m.
Camille Jones, a senior from Woodrow Wilson High School in El Sereno was also on the bus that crashed and is currently recovering from her injuries at an area hospital, according to councilman Jose Huizar’s Facebook page.
Officials say the FedEx truck crossed a grassy median and collided with the charter bus. Witnesses say both vehicles instantly burst into flames as students kicked open windows to escape the fire.
The crash happened about 100 miles north of Sacramento.
LAUSD families seeking more information can contact the district’s school mental health hotline at 213-241-3841.