Bus passenger describes terror before Calif. crash

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 4, 2013 at 10:31 pm •  Published: February 4, 2013
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Maldonado hurt her back and shoulder but remarkably did not break any bones, according to her mother, who said her two other daughters had planned to make the trip but did not.

"I just thank God they did not go," Salazar said in Spanish as she choked back tears.

The crash littered Route 38 with body parts, winter clothing and debris. The bus stood across both lanes with its windows blown out, front end crushed and part of the roof peeled back like a tin can.

"I saw many people dead. There are very, very horrendous images in my head, things I don't want to think about," Barrientos said as he and girlfriend Lluvia Ramirez, who both work at a government hospital in Tijuana, waited outside the Loma Linda University Medical Center emergency room for word on a friend who broke her neck.

Barrientos, who was uninjured, quickly sprang into action following the crash, moving his friends to safety and then tried to help the bus driver, whose hand was pinned between rocks. Ramirez, who had a bloody ear, dark bruises and a scratch on her neck, suffered a hairline vertebra fracture.

"I was overwhelmed," she said. "I'm a surgical resident and I usually know how to react, but I was so in shock I didn't know what to do. I just stayed with my friend."

The gruesomeness of the injuries made it difficult for authorities to determine just how many had died. They initially said eight but then reduced the number to seven after determining no additional bodies were in the wrecked bus.

At least 17 people were still hospitalized Monday, including at least five in critical condition.

The bus driver had major injuries, Lopez said, and the pickup driver was in extremely serious condition, said Peter Brierty, assistant county fire chief.

No one answered the door at the Scapadas Magicas office in a sprawling complex that houses more than 1,300 storage lockers and about 30 small offices.

Jordi Garcia, marketing director of Interbus Tours, said his company rented the bus from Scapadas Magicas, which supplied the driver.

Interbus offers near-daily bus tours to the western U.S. from Tijuana. Its office in a Tijuana strip mall displays photographs of some of its destinations, including Hollywood, the Las Vegas Strip and the San Diego Zoo.

There were 38 people aboard the bus that crashed, including the driver and a tour guide, Garcia said. The bus left Tijuana at 5 a.m. Sunday, with the itinerary calling for a return late that night.

He said he spoke briefly with his tour guide, who suffered bruises. She told him she heard a loud pop before the crash.

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Associated Press reporters contributing to this report included Raquel Maria Dillon in San Bernardino County and Michael R. Blood, Andrew Dalton and Bob Jablon in Los Angeles. Flaccus reported from Loma Linda, Calif.