(USA TODAY) - Federal investigators probing the bus crash that killed 10 people in Orland, Calif., have so far found no evidence that the FedEx truck involved was already on fire when it slammed into a charter bus carrying 44 Southern California high school students and their chaperones.
"There is no evidence of pre-impact fire located at the accident scene," said Mark Rosekind, a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board on site in Orland. He said NTSB fire investigators had examined the median and the highway for signs that the truck was on fire at the time of Thursday's crash.
That's contrary to what witnesses Bonnie and Joe Duran earlier told two TV stations.They were in a Nissan Altima hit by the FedEx truck on Interstate 5 moments before it plowed into the bus. "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," Bonnie Duran told KNBC-TV.
NTSB investigators are getting cell phone video from the Altima and dash camera video from a California Highway Patrol officer that they hope will help explain what happened, Rosekind said.
The FedEx driver, Tim Evans of Sacramento, was among those killed.
Rosekind said Evans, 32, had taken a load to Weeds, Calif., 49 miles south of the Oregon border Thursday morning, picked up two semi-trailers and was headed back to Sacramento when the crash occurred. Investigators will check to see whether Evans was over the federally allowed hours of service, Rosekind said.
The truck hit the back door and trunk of the car before crashing into the charter bus filled with high schoolers and their chaperons heading for a preview weekend visit for incoming freshman at Humboldt State University's Arcata campus.
Initial reports by police indicated the truck swerved to avoid a sedan that was traveling in the same direction in this town about 100 miles north of Sacramento, then went across the median. Officer Lacey Heitman, a spokeswoman for California Highway Patrol, said she could not confirm if the truck was on fire before the collision until all evidence was gathered.
Federal investigators also recovered an electronic control module from the bus, but do not know what information it contains. They were not able to recover such equipment from the FedEx truck tractor, a 2007 Volvo, but may be able to calculate speed and maneuvering using the transmission and marks in steering box.
But in addition to the cause of the crash, federal transportation authorities are examining whether fire safety measures they previously recommended for motor coaches could have allowed more of the 48 bus occupants to escape unharmed.
Contributing: Donna Leinwand Leger, Gary Strauss, Associated Press.