ORLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A tractor-trailer already was on fire as it came across a median and crashed into a tour bus, killing 10 people, according to a couple whose car was sideswiped by the big rig.
Joe and Bonnie Duran were driving a sedan northbound on the 5 Freeway on Thursday when they said a FedEx truck heading south careened toward them, struck their rental car and crashed into the oncoming bus carrying high school students from Southern California. The bus and truck quickly were engulfed in flames.
Bonnie Duran, who was driving, told KNBC-TV in Los Angeles that flames were coming from the lower rear of the truck cab.
"I just looked to the left and there it was coming through right at me at an angle. I can tell I wasn't going to outrun him so I just kind of turned to the right and he hit me," she said.
"It was in flames as it came through the median. ...It wasn't like the whole thing was engulfed, it was coming up wrapping around him."
KNBC reported the Durans will be interviewed Saturday by the California Highway Patrol before flying home to suburban Seattle. A CHP spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Investigators have not mentioned the possibility that the truck was on fire before the crash. Police also initially said the sedan and truck were traveling in the same direction when the truck swerved to avoid the sedan.
Five students from the Los Angeles area, three chaperones and the truck and bus drivers died in the crash about 100 miles north of Sacramento. Dozens were injured, some critically.
The bus was carrying 44 students to visit Humboldt State University in far Northern California. Michael Myvett and his fiancee, Mattison Haywood, both from Los Angeles, were two of four chaperones.
That Myvett, who graduated from Humboldt with a psychology degree in 2007 and worked with autistic children, was eager to make the trip with the woman he proposed to on bended knee in Paris last December made sense to friends and co-workers.
Haywood was "the love of his life" and "to be a liaison and representative for high school students who wanted to attend Humboldt was in sync with his personality, wanting to facilitate peoples' achievement of their dreams," said Kyle Farris, a colleague at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Torrance.
The bus carried a lot of dreams. It was one of three chartered to bring prospective students, many of them hoping to be the first in their families to attend college, to tour Humboldt before they got busy with prom and graduation.
"I can only imagine the excitement of these high school students as they were on their way to visit a college campus, and the pride of the adults who were accompanying them," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. "Our young people are our greatest treasure, and this loss is heartbreaking."
Desperate families awaited word about loved ones Friday, while investigators tried to figure out why the FedEx truck swerved across the grassy divide.
The Serrato family, whose identical twin 17-year-old daughters set off on the adventure on separate buses Thursday, had a panicked, sleepless night. Marisol made it to their destination but the family had no word on Marisa for nearly 24 hours.
They received the official word Friday evening when dental records confirmed Marisa was among the dead.
"Marisol is devastated," the girls' 23-year-old brother Miguel Serrato said.
Another victim was Adrian Castro, 19, a senior football player at El Monte High School east of Los Angeles. Castro was considering going to a state university closer to home but decided to give faraway Humboldt, home of sports teams known as the Lumberjacks, a chance, his father, Raul Castro, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
"He told me two days ago, 'Should I go up and check it out anyway?'" said Raul Castro, who dropped his son off to meet the bus on Thursday morning. Later that night he got a call from Adrian's mother, who said she had heard from the California Highway Patrol that the young man had died.
Rescuers said the people who were killed were mostly at the front of the bus, or outside on the ground in front of it. Most survivors were injured, some with critical burns or broken limbs.
Those who made it out said they scrambled through a kicked-out window, and the ones who could ran or staggered to the opposite side of Interstate 5 before the bus exploded and was swept by flames.