At least five people were confirmed killed and several more were injured when a tour bus carrying French tourists overturned on U.S. Highway 101 near Soledad in unincorporated Monterey County. There are some reports that up to 10 people died but the California Highway Patrol would only confirm four deaths.
The crash happened shortly before 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday on the highway near Front Street, according to a California Highway Patrol dispatcher.
There were 37 people, including the driver, on board the bus, operated by Orion Pacific Charter out of Orange County, when it slammed into the guardrail on an elevated section of Highway 101 then overturned, according to Monterey County spokeswoman Maia Carroll. The impact was so hard, several passengers were thrown from the bus and onto the roadway and railroad tracks below the stretch of highway.
The bus was the only vehicle involved in the crash, according to the Red Cross. The bus left San Francisco Tuesday morning and was on its way to Santa Maria. One of the first witnesses at the scene was an off-duty police officer from Marina.
"It's something like I've never seen before ..." Eddie Anderson said, "A lot of emergency vehicles. A lot of people hurt in need of medical care. People were disoriented and sad about what was going on."
Eight people were reported to be in critical condition and the rest suffered minor to moderate injuries, according to Lee Memorial Hospital, where some of the victims were being treated. Fifteen ambulances were responding to the crash as well as several helicopters, the dispatcher said.
The southbound lanes of the highway remained shut down into Wednesday morning and did not reopen until Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
The Red Cross is providing food, shelter and mental health counseling to about 20 people connected to the crash, spokeswoman Laura Kershner said. The Red Cross is also reportedly trying to put survivors in contact with their family and friends.