Fatal: Emergency workers spent more than an hour extricating trapped passengers from the bus following the 'devastating' accident, which left at least eight people dead and dozens more injured

At least eight people died and 38 injured  after a tour bus collided with a car and a pick-up truck in a horror smash  Sunday night in the mountains of Southern California.

It is thought the brakes may have failed on  the bus, which careered down a mountain route close to the town of Forest Falls,  before colliding with a car and flipping over, then ploughing into a pick-up  towing a trailer.

Emergency workers spent hours extricating  people from the stricken bus – which was carrying tourists returning to Tijuana,  Mexico, after a day of skiing at California’s popular Big Bear resort -  following the ‘devastating’ crash on State Route 38 at 6.30pm last  night.

Fatal: Emergency workers spent more than an hour extricating trapped passengers from the bus following the ‘devastating’ accident, which left at least eight people dead and dozens more injured

A Highway Patrol officer at the scene, Mario  Lopez, confirmed the death toll and said almost 40 people were rushed to  hospital in the aftermath of the accident.

Some passengers were thrown from the bus,  while others were left trapped among the wreckage. Children were among the  injured.

‘It’s horrific, it is tragic, it is carnage,’  Terri Kasinga, from the California Department of Transport, said in the wake of  the crash.

Hurt: Victims of a fatal bus crash reach out to comfort each other in the wake of the smash, which left eight dead and dozens more – including children – injured

‘It is so bad up there it’s hard to  understand what really happened,’ she told ABC Local Los  Angeles.

The bus driver reported having brake problems  as it came down the mountain on State Route 38, rear-ending a sedan then  flipping over and hitting a pickup truck that was pulling a trailer, he said.

Passengers on the bus were part of a tour  group from Tijuana, Mexico, and a representative from the Mexican consulate was  at the crash scene.

The bus was heading down the mountain  carrying passengers returning from a day of skiing and snowboarding at Big Bear,  according to NBC Los  Angeles.

Survivors told the network those on board  heard the driver shout something about the vehicle’s brakes, then the bus began  weaving in and out of traffic as it sped down the route before colliding with  the sedan and flipping over.

Many were left trapped in the bus, which came  to a rest lying sideways across both lanes of State Route 38 with its front end  crushed.

Tragedy: The bus eventually came to a rest lying sideways across both lanes State Route 38 close to the town of Forest Falls

People were still being extricated from the  bus more than an hour after the crash on the mountainous stretch, which runs  through the San Bernardino National Forest, and rescuers were still searching  the wreckage for victims hours later.

Television footage showed the bus sitting  upright but turned sideways on the road, which was littered with  debris.

‘It’s really a mess up there with body  parts,’ Michelle Profant, a spokeswoman for California Department of  Transportation, said of the ‘shocking’ crash scene.

At least seven ambulances were called to the  scene, and patients were taken to several hospitals.

Mr Lopez said more than a dozen survivors  pulled from the wreckage had sustained life-threatening injuries

He told press gathered at the crash scene  last night: ‘We still don’t know what caused the bus to accelerate down the 38.  There’s a possibility of mechanical issues.

‘The bus rear-ended a Saturn sedan then  rolled or overturned,’ he said, adding that the bus then collided with a Ford  pick-up truck towing a trailer, resulting in ‘multiple fatalities’.

Debris: California Highway Patrol officers stand near the crash scene with the battered trailer from a pick-truck hit by the bus in the background

‘It’s a terrible crash,’ he said.

‘We are trying to get investigators in there  and hopefully determine exactly what happened.’

Arrowhead Regional Medical Center said four  women had been admitted from the crash and their conditions were still being  determined.

Redland Community Hospital said it received  one person in critical condition and one with minor injuries, while two more  were en route with minor injuries.

Community Hospital of San Bernardino said it  had received one patient with undetermined injuries, while St. Bernadine Medical  Center said it had two patients, whose injuries were being assessed.

Lettering on the bus indicated that it was  operated by Scapadas Magicas LLC, a company based in National City, California.

Federal transportation records show that the  company is licensed to carry passengers for interstate travel, and that it has  had no crashes in the past two years.

A call to the company was not immediately  returned.

Jordi Garcia, a manager for InterBus Tours,  said his company ran the trip yesterday. He told U-T San Diego that the group  departed Tijuana at 5 a.m. for a day of skiing at Big Bear.

‘The information that we have is that the bus  brakes failed and the accident occurred,’ he said.

The California crash comes less than a day  after a bus carrying 42 high school students and their chaperones slammed into  an overpass in Boston. Massachusetts state police said 35 people were injured  and that the driver had directed the bus onto a road with a height  limit.


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