Central California sheriff-coroner says 4 people, not 5, died in highway bus crash

ATWATER, Calif. (AP) — Central California sheriff-coroner says 4 people, not 5, died in highway bus crash.

Additionally, 16 people were injured in a charter bus crash on Highway 99 Tuesday morning near the town of Atwater in the Central Valley, authorities said.

The California Highway Patrol reported that the bus was headed north when for some reason it swerved off the road and hit a traffic sign pole around 3:30 a.m.

CHP investigators say the pole partially went through the bus resulting in fatal injuries for five passengers. Several other passengers were flown to area hospital with serious injuries and authorities said at least 16 people were hurt during the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause.

The bus, which started its journey in Mexico, had 30 people on board. The majority of passengers were adults. There was a 17-year-old girl on board as well. It had stopped in Los Angeles and its final destination was Pasco, Washington. 

According to the Merced Sun Star 57-year-old Mario David Vasquez was the driver of the bus. He was not conscious when first responders arrived. 

The company that owns the bus was identified as Autobuses Coordinados USA Inc. An employee at the company confirmed it was their bus. 

CHP officials, were not certain of exactly what city in Southern California the bus departed from and also what company the bus was with.

KPMH TV, a Fox affiliate in Fresno, reported that  the accident resulted in traffic gridlock that stretched for at least a mile while law enforcement authorities responded to the scene. 

The CHP says that the entire northbound part of the highway is closed and will remain closed for an undetermined amount of time.

They advised that even drivers on southbound Highway 99 can expect significant delays because of all the emergency response in the area.

CHP officials are asking witnesses to call them with additional information.