3 killed, 18 hurt when bus rolls on North County freeway

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SAN DIEGO — Three people died and 18 others were injured Saturday when a bus rolled over several times on Interstate 15, the North County Fire Protection District said.

One unidentified person was found dead inside the bus. Another person inside the bus was pulled to safety, Capt. John Choi of the NCFPD said.

The accident happened at about 10:30 a.m. on southbound I-15, just south of state Route 76 in Pala Mesa, authorities said. Crews from the CHP, Camp Pendleton, CalFire, Pala Mesa, Vista and Oceanside arrived on the scene to aid in helping the injured victims who were ejected in the crash, according to Choi.

The bus, owned by Executive Lines Inc., was transporting several people — all Spanish speaking — to the U.S.-Mexico border at the time of the crash, authorities said. “They basically pick up multiple people from multiple locations and bring them down to the border,” Sgt. Curtis Martin with the CHP said of the bus company. “They made numerous stops before this point.”

Rescue crews found the bus on its roof and in danger of sliding down an embankment, Choi said. Crews had to stabilize the bus before they could rescue anybody trapped inside.

Three fire engine rescue crews were able to get inside the bus, where they found one person who had died and one injured victim, Choi said.

After initially reporting that the 18 survivors were all transported to local hospitals for treatment, authorities clarified on Sunday that 17 of the survivors were transported while the bus driver was treated for minor injuries at the scene.

Though Choi initially said the bus had no seat belts, CHP officials later told FOX 5 the vehicle did have seat belts. It was unclear if the passengers were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash.

The bus driver voluntarily answered first responders’ questions about the crash and was cooperating with authorities, the CHP told FOX 5.

Traffic on I-15 was halted for several hours as authorities worked to clear the area.

The cause of the crash was under investigation. Neither drugs nor alcohol were considered to be factors in the crash. Authorities said the roads were wet from a passing storm Saturday morning, but it was unclear if weather was to blame for the crash.

Martin said authorities would be conducting a full mechanical inspection of the bus as the investigation continued.

Anyone who witnessed the crash or has information related to the incident is encouraged to contact the CHP at 858-637-3800.

Editor’s note: This article initially reported that all 18 survivors were taken to local hospitals for treatment. The CHP clarified on Sunday that 17 of the survivors were transported for treatment and the bus driver was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

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