Friends, family, school officials and colleagues have confirmed the identities of the 10 victims believed to have been killed in last week’s fiery collision in Northern California between a big rig and a bus that was carrying prospective college students from the Los Angeles area to Humboldt State University.
Coroner’s investigators were still working to verify the names of the dead. They had warned that the fiery nature of the April 10 crash in Orland, Calif., posed challenges in identifying the bodies.
Several families said they had asked to provide dental records for those who remained missing after the collision between a FedEx big rig and passenger bus on the 5 Freeway about 100 miles north of Sacramento.
Two additional students were identified as Denise Gomez, 18, and Ismael Jimenez, 18, both seniors at Amino Inglewood Charter High School, Green Dot Public Schools CEO Marco Pertuzzi announced in an emailed statement Sunday evening.
Jimenez helped rescue some of the students in the aftermath of the fiery crash before losing his own life, witnesses reported.
“One of the other students on the trip, who attends Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School, returned home last Friday night and related to our staff how Ismael busted open a window at the front of the bus as it was filling with smoke and people were getting burned,” Pertuzzi said in the statement. “He started lifting kids out in an effort to save them.”
“Ismael will be remembered as someone who forever affected the lives of young people he barely knew,” Pertuzzi added. “He was indeed a hero.”
Jimenez was passionate about art and was looking to pursue it as a career after college, while Gomez was a member of the girls’ varsity soccer team, president of the Earth Club and an editor of the school yearbook, according to Pertuzzi.
The two were described as “model students who warmed the hearts of everyone they knew,” the statement said.
Gomez and Jimenez would have been the first in their families to go to college, Pertuzzi said.
Five students, three chaperones and both drivers were killed when the charter bus carrying the students was struck head-on by the FedEx truck, which crossed a 60-foot grassy median before the crash.
The three other students who were killed in the crash have been identified as Adrian Castro, 19, at El Monte High School, Marisa Serrato, 17, of Norte Vista High School in Riverside, and Jennifer Bonilla of Dorsey High School in the Baldwin Hills area.
A vigil for Castro was scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at El Monte High School.
At Dorsey High School, a growing memorial had been set up for Bonilla, video from the scene showed. Flowers, candles and messages written on the sidewalk in chalk were visible outside the school.
The other victims of the crash were identified as Arthur Arzola, 26, a Humboldt State University admissions representative, Michael Myvett, 29, a Humboldt State alumnus, and his fiancee, Mattison Maywood. They were the chaperones on the trip.
The Sacramento Bee reported that family members said the FedEx driver was Tim Evans, 32, of Elk Grove, a Sacramento suburb. A gofundme.com fundraiser page had been set up for his wife and two young daughters.
The bus driver was identified by family members as Tala Taiao, according to KTXL in Sacramento. On the Facebook page for Talalelei Lealao-Taiao, her daughter asked supporters to pray for the family, writing: “This is a time that we should celebrate the beautiful life my Mother lived.”
Thirty-one people were hospitalized after the fiery crash.
A fund has been launched to help Los Angeles Unified School District families affected by the collision, according to a news release dated Monday from L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino.
Anyone looking to donate could do so through the website, or send donations through the mail, according to the site.
The collision was under investigation by federal, state and local authorities.
On Sunday, the National Transportation Safety Board announced that there was no evidence that the FedEx truck was on fire prior to the collision, contradicting eyewitness reports.
“Our fire expert reviewed the median and highway, and found no physical evidence of fire before the impact,” Mark R. Rosekind said during a news conference.
NTSB investigators planned to remain in Glenn County for five to 10 more days before moving on to Los Angeles where they planned to interview survivors of the collision, according to Rosekind.
A preliminary report on the investigation was expected to be released in 30 days.
KTLA’s Wendy Burch contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Buscaino’s name. The post has been updated.