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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

3 youths held in Eastside school bus crash

A pedestrian is killed and the bus driver and 20 students are hospitalized after a sports car allegedly runs a red light.



Three teenage boys triggered chaos in a Boyle Heights neighborhood Monday afternoon when their car ran a red light, killed a pedestrian and upended a school bus, injuring the driver and 20 Roosevelt High School students, authorities said.

Two of the teenagers were arrested after they were chased down and apprehended by a construction workers, California Highway Patrol Officer Miguel Luevano said. A third youth was arrested after arriving at an area hospital later in the evening, seeking medical treatment.

The students, who were returning to campus, suffered non-life-threatening injuries when the school bus overturned and slid onto the plaza at the entrance to the Metro Gold Line Soto Station, Luevano said.

Authorities are weighing criminal homicide charges in the 3:22 p.m. collision at East 1st Street and Soto Avenue, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.

The bus was returning 46 students from the East Los Angeles Skills Center, where they attend classes because of overcrowding.

"We heard a big boom," said Susana Romero, 16, who was sitting near the back of the bus. "It made us fly. I flipped. I fell to the other side of the bus, and then I blacked out."

When she came to, she could hear people crying and moaning.

"We were all like 'Are you OK?' 'Yes.' 'Are you OK?' 'Yes,' " said Susana, who got out of the bus by crawling to an emergency exit at the back of the vehicle.

She said there was a lot of broken glass on the bus.

"Some kids at the front of the bus were bleeding and scraped up, but everybody seemed all right," said Marco Valdez, 17.

Within minutes, dozens of firefighters and police officers arrived, but they said the students had already started helping one another off the bus. Anxious parents and spectators crowded around as emergency response teams set up a triage center in the station plaza.

Jose Cisneros said he was cutting hair at his 1st Street shop when he heard the accident and rushed outside. He said the bus was filled with screaming children, some of whom appeared to be bloody. He also saw an apparently lifeless man on the ground, one of his hands severed. Shoes and clothes were strewn about the street.

Authorities did not immediately identify the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The bus driver was initially reported to be hospitalized in critical condition, but he was later upgraded to serious condition, officials said. Twenty students were also taken to hospitals, they said.

In the chaos, some students went home on their own. The rest were taken to the nearby Hollenbeck police station, where they were interviewed by investigators and reunited with their families. School counselors were also available to speak with them.

The three suspects were also hospitalized, Luevano said. Investigators are waiting for blood test results to determine whether alcohol or drugs may have been involved in the accident.

The suspects' vehicle was registered to one of the boys' parents, Luevano said.

Some parents were surprised to learn from their children that there were no seat belts on the bus.

"In our cars we have to have them, why not in the buses? They're students!" said Susana's stepfather, Hugo Landa.

Some federal studies have shown that seat belts on buses provide little added safety and can in some cases cause unintended harm.

"As a parent, one thing we expect is when our kids go to and from school, they are safe," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who rushed to the scene with other city officials. "We breathe a sigh of relief today that there were no serious or fatal injuries to the children."


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