BLYTHE (CBSLA.com) — Four people were killed and nearly two dozen injured early Wednesday in a crash involving a tour bus, a big rig and two vehicles on the 10 Freeway near the California-Arizona border, officials said.
The accident happened near the Port of Entry, just east of Blythe, around 2 a.m. and forced the closure of the highway in both directions until around 6:30 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.
A big rig carrying metal pipes was traveling eastbound when it jackknifed into the median, spilling its load onto the roadway.
"The pipes subsequently caused some of the vehicles to crash into them in the eastbound lanes and it appears they could have rolled into westbound traffic, which is where the bus was traveling," Terri Kasinga of Caltrans said.
The tour bus, operated by El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express, was carrying 32 people when it hit the pipes, rolled 40 to 50 feet off the roadway, down an embankment and landed on its side.
"I hit the ceiling and when I came back down, I landed on top of a guy that was dead. This is the blood that I have, his blood, on me," passenger and Whittier resident Caesar Castillo said. "I'm freaking out and everybody's screaming and I'm like, alright, we gotta get out of here."
Passengers said they climbed over bus seats and exited the driver's side window after the crash.
The bus was traveling from El Paso, Texas, to Los Angeles and had made a stop in Phoenix, the CHP said.
More than 20 people were taken to a local hospital by ambulance, while six others were transported via helicopter. Several others are presumed trapped.
"Multiple critical and serious injuries," Kasinga told KNX 1070.
All four fatalities were passengers on the bus.
In a statement, Jerry Rosenbaum, the president of El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express, said, in part, "California Highway Patrol has taken the lead on this investigation, and we're confident they'll determine all the elements involved in this accident. No one has made any allegations about the bus's maintenance or the bus driver's actions being contributing factors of this accident."
Rosenbaum added, "Our thoughts, prayers, and unfortunately condolences go out to and for the trucker involved in the accident, occupants of any other vehicles that may have been involved, and most importantly, our passengers and driver."
The company is handling all information for passengers' families at the El Paso corporate office at (915) 225-8196.
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