5-year-old victim in 15 bus crash airlifted to Moreno Valley hospital

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A bus that rolled over on Interstate 15 near Fallbrook on Saturday resulted in the deaths of three people and injured 16 more. Valley News/Nathan Benner

MORENO VALLEY (CNS) – A 5-year-old boy critically injured in Saturday’s deadly charter bus crash in Pala Mesa was airlifted to a Moreno Valley hospital today, authorities said.

The boy was among the 21 passengers in a charter bus traveling from El Monte to Tijuana that crashed Saturday morning on rain-slicked southbound Interstate 15 south of state Route 76 in Pala Mesa, said California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Latulippe.

Three women were killed in the crash and 18 others were taken to hospitals, five to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, five to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar and eight to Temecula Valley Hospital, Latulippe said. Three passengers suffered major injuries, he said, and officials were determining the other injured patients’ conditions Sunday morning.

The boy was airlifted from Inland Valley Medical Center to the Riverside University Health System Medical Center in Moreno Valley to be treated for a head wound, Latulippe said.

The accident happened at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday when a charter bus owned by Executive Lines Inc., based in El Monte, slid off I-15 in a heavy rainstorm, down an embankment and landed on its roof. Most of the injured passengers were either ejected or escaped from the bus, which was equipped with seat belts, the CHP said. Few passengers were wearing seat belts, Latulippe said.

The bus driver, from Whittier, was questioned by officials at a station and voluntarily gave a blood sample, Latulippe said. The driver, whose name was not released, cooperated fully with investigators, he said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation website said that the bus company’s records show no reports of crashes and that it passed all inspections over the past two years.

Latulippe said the bus was stabilized by firefighter crews so that it could be raised and allow crew members to extricate the body of a woman who was pinned underneath. The bus was towed to a CHP evidence yard for processing to see if there were any steering and braking problems.

North County Fire Protection District officials said they were assisted in the accident rescue by crews from Cal Fire, Vista, Camp Pendleton, CHP and Pala.