ANAHEIM HILLS (CBSLA.com) — Authorities Friday were investigating a school bus crash in Anaheim Hills.
Eleven children had a terrifying ride home Thursday afternoon when the bus crashed into a tree on a golf course.
The driver, 24-year-old Jerry Rupple, and two students were transported to various hospitals in critical condition, according to the Orange County Fire Department. Three other people suffered cuts, bruises and other non-life-threatening injuries.
The incident occurred around 3:45 p.m. when the driver was making the last stop of the day at the Anaheim Hills Golf Course, located at 6501 E. Nohl Ranch Road. The community is located east of Anaheim.
Anaheim Hills resident Andrea Shurtz says the bus sped right past her and was traveling at "70 mph, I'm guessing. He was going very, very fast, not braking at all."
Seconds later, she heard the crash and called 911.
The driver was dropping off students enrolled at El Rancho Charter School, which teaches grades K-12, in the Orange Unified School District.
SKY9 was live overhead as crews freed the driver trapped inside the bus, which had apparently driven off the road and up an embankment. The bus rammed into a tree and somehow managed to stay propped against that tree, which kept it from rolling back down the incline.
Passenger Solymar Colling was able to walk out of the bus after the crash. She said the other 10 students on board were disoriented.
"They were laying there like, 'How did we get up here? We need to get out.'"
Because of the precarious positioning of the vehicle, crews were very careful as they helped passengers exit the vehicle.
The driver's father came to the crash scene and said Rupple always makes sure children aboard are wearing their seat belts, but some students admitted to taking them off during the bus ride.
Rupple's mother says he has been traveling the same route for the past three years.
Investigators were looking into why, according to evidence on scene, the driver didn't appear to hit the brakes before hitting the tree.
Students say during a stop they made prior to the crash, the driver got out to escort students across the street and took roughly five minutes before he got back on the bus.
According to Colling, "A student was like, 'Mr. Jerry, are you going to come back on the bus?' And he was like, 'Yeah.' And then he came back on the bus. I think, maybe, he wasn't feeling well or something was going on.'"
Officials say they are investigating whether the driver may have had a health crisis.
Rupple, who remained in critical condition at a hospital Friday morning, was reportedly conscious and cooperating with investigators.
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