One passenger was killed and 11 people, including the driver and six children, were injured Saturday when a charter bus returning from Yosemite National Park carrying students from China hit a tree on Highway 41 north of Oakhurst, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Four passengers had major injuries, and six passengers had moderate to minor injuries, the CHP said Sunday morning. The CHP said the driver, a 53-year-old man from Alhambra in Los Angeles County, whose name was not immediately released, suffered moderate injuries. Jd Singh, a partner with the charter bus company, said the driver was out of the hospital Sunday and was heading back home from Fresno.
The bus was carrying 22 people: a group of Chinese students ranging in age from 12 to 15 and four chaperones, plus the driver.
The bus was equipped with seat belts, the CHP said, and the passenger who was killed had her seat belt on.
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The crash was reported at 5:36 p.m. at Highway 41 and Road 630, the CHP said. Patients were taken by three helicopters and nine ambulances to Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno and Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County, the CHP reported. The parking lots of the Vons grocery store in Oakhurst and Batterson ranger station on Highway 41 north of Oakhurst were used for helicopter landing pads.
Seven children taken to Valley Children’s Hospital had been looking forward to a pizza party after their trip, so hospital emergency room personnel thew an impromptu pizza party before they were released.
Sunday morning, the CHP said the bus was heading down the mountain toward Oakhurst. The driver was going about 35 to 40 mph north of Lewis Creek when he entered a curve at an unsafe speed. He drifted off the west side of the road, where the right side of the bus hit a large tree. The bus came to rest on its wheels in the southbound lane.
The CHP said the crash is under investigation.
Five patients were admitted to Community Regional following the crash, of whom one remained in the hospital Sunday, and three had been released. One patient died at the hospital, spokeswoman Mary Lisa Russell said. Translators were helping medical personnel speak with the patients, she said.
Valley Children’s Hospital spokeswoman Zara Arboleda said Sunday that all seven patients taken there had been dismissed overnight. Arboleda said that the seven patients, six of whom were 13 years old and one 12, had not suffered serious injuries.
Arboleda said the kids had been looking forward to a pizza party after their trip, so hospital emergency room personnel thew an impromptu pizza party before they were released.
The 33-passenger white chartered bus is owned by Top Line Charter of Monterey Park in the Los Angeles area and was carrying passengers visiting from China, officials said.
Highway 41 was closed at the crash site, which is just south of Sugar Pine, for about four hours Saturday night.
Initial reports by the CHP that the bus went down an embankment after hitting the tree were incorrect. Scattered bags of snack chips and other debris were on the roadway, and the floor of the bus was littered with debris.
Attempts to reach the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles were unsuccessful.