At least eight people died and 38 injuredÂ after a tour bus collided with a car and a pick-up truck in a horror smashÂ Sunday night in the mountains of Southern California.
It is thought the brakes may have failed onÂ the bus, which careered down a mountain route close to the town of Forest Falls,Â before colliding with a car and flipping over, then ploughing into a pick-upÂ towing a trailer.
Emergency workers spent hours extricatingÂ people from the stricken bus – which was carrying tourists returning to Tijuana,Â Mexico, after a day of skiing at California’s popular Big Bear resort -Â following the ‘devastating’ crash on State Route 38 at 6.30pm lastÂ night.
A Highway Patrol officer at the scene, MarioÂ Lopez, confirmed the death toll and said almost 40 people were rushed toÂ hospital in the aftermath of the accident.
Some passengers were thrown from the bus,Â while others were left trapped among the wreckage. Children were among theÂ injured.
‘It’s horrific, it is tragic, it is carnage,’Â Terri Kasinga, from the California Department of Transport, said in the wake ofÂ the crash.
‘It is so bad up there it’s hard toÂ understand what really happened,’ she told ABC Local LosÂ Angeles.
The bus driver reported having brake problemsÂ as it came down the mountain on State Route 38, rear-ending a sedan thenÂ flipping over and hitting a pickup truck that was pulling a trailer, he said.
Passengers on the bus were part of a tourÂ group from Tijuana, Mexico, and a representative from the Mexican consulate wasÂ at the crash scene.
The bus was heading down the mountainÂ carrying passengers returning from a day of skiing and snowboarding at Big Bear,Â according to NBC LosÂ Angeles.
Survivors told the network those on boardÂ heard the driver shout something about the vehicle’s brakes, then the bus beganÂ weaving in and out of traffic as it sped down the route before colliding withÂ the sedan and flipping over.
Many were left trapped in the bus, which cameÂ to a rest lying sideways across both lanes of State Route 38 with its front endÂ crushed.
People were still being extricated from theÂ bus more than an hour after the crash on the mountainous stretch, which runsÂ through the San Bernardino National Forest, and rescuers were still searchingÂ the wreckage for victims hours later.
Television footage showed the bus sittingÂ upright but turned sideways on the road, which was littered withÂ debris.
‘It’s really a mess up there with bodyÂ parts,’ Michelle Profant, a spokeswoman for California Department ofÂ Transportation, said of the ‘shocking’ crash scene.
At least seven ambulances were called to theÂ scene, and patients were taken to several hospitals.
Mr Lopez said more than a dozen survivorsÂ pulled from the wreckage had sustained life-threatening injuries
He told press gathered at the crash sceneÂ last night: ‘We still don’t know what caused the bus to accelerate down the 38.Â There’s a possibility of mechanical issues.
‘The bus rear-ended a Saturn sedan thenÂ rolled or overturned,’ he said, adding that the bus then collided with a FordÂ pick-up truck towing a trailer, resulting in ‘multiple fatalities’.
‘It’s a terrible crash,’ he said.
‘We are trying to get investigators in thereÂ and hopefully determine exactly what happened.’
Arrowhead Regional Medical Center said fourÂ women had been admitted from the crash and their conditions were still beingÂ determined.
Redland Community Hospital said it receivedÂ one person in critical condition and one with minor injuries, while two moreÂ were en route with minor injuries.
Community Hospital of San Bernardino said itÂ had received one patient with undetermined injuries, while St. Bernadine MedicalÂ Center said it had two patients, whose injuries were being assessed.
Lettering on the bus indicated that it wasÂ operated by Scapadas Magicas LLC, a company based in National City, California.
Federal transportation records show that theÂ company is licensed to carry passengers for interstate travel, and that it hasÂ had no crashes in the past two years.
A call to the company was not immediatelyÂ returned.
Jordi Garcia, a manager for InterBus Tours,Â said his company ran the trip yesterday. He told U-T San Diego that the groupÂ departed Tijuana at 5 a.m. for a day of skiing at Big Bear.
‘The information that we have is that the busÂ brakes failed and the accident occurred,’ he said.
The California crash comes less than a dayÂ after a bus carrying 42 high school students and their chaperones slammed intoÂ an overpass in Boston. Massachusetts state police said 35 people were injuredÂ and that the driver had directed the bus onto a road with a heightÂ limit.