Driver in deadly bus crash near Oakhurst was "inexperienced," authorities say
The crash left a child dead and one in critical condition after a bus full of students veered off the road and smashed into a tree near Oakhurst on Saturday. (KFSN)
By Nathalie Granda
Updated 45 mins ago
MADERA COUNTY (KFSN) -- The California Highway Patrol says speed is the primary factor in the charter bus accident that killed one. The department is still investigating the bus to see if there were any mechanical issues.
Authorities called the scene frightening. The crash left a child dead and one in critical condition after a bus full of students veered off the road and smashed into a tree near Oakhurst on Saturday. The many injuries made it hard to identify the passengers.
"All we had to go off of were passports," Kaci Lutz with the California Highway Patrol said. "It was hard to identify all the children based on what we saw at the collision."
The CHP said the investigation of the bus is ongoing.
"The bus is being looked at RN for evidence to make sure there were no other contributing factors like mechanical that we didn't see out there," -- said.
Authorities also released the identity of the driver as 53-year-old Kehong Niu and said he was "inexperienced" as a commercial driver. The department said the bus was carrying dozens of students from Chinese, aged 12 to 14, as well as two chaperones who were heading to Fresno from Yosemite National Park when the bus veered off Highway 41 near Sugar Pine.
The highway is marked at a speed limit of 55, and based on evidence and an eyewitness, authorities said speed is currently the primary factor.
"Your 'e talking about a tour bus, which is hauling a lot of weight," Lutz explained. "That has to be considered when driving at speeds through curved roads like the ones we have here."
A nearby bus service was called in to help transport some of the uninjured victims. Lynn Fulmer, a driver with Discover Yosemite, said he's also a volunteer search-and-rescue member of Madera County. Fulmer said he was able to get to the scene within minutes.
"They were frantically on phones, calling," he explained. "It was tough but I've been involved with the sheriff search-and-rescue for 30 years and it's something we deal with and help out any way we can."
CHP said the Chinese consulate is currently working with the family of the child killed, and the 13-year-old who is still in critical condition.