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After Recorders Burned, ‘Clone’ Vehicles to Recreate Orland Crash

Investigators planned to essentially reenact the collision that killed 10 people in Orland on Thursday afternoon, using full-sized vehicles designed to provide data that a fire-charred FedEx truck and charter bus may not.

Deadly crash cuts short hopeful college trip

A FedEx truck crossed a median and slammed head-on into a bus carrying students in Northern California, killing 10 people, authorities said Friday. The collision Thursday evening killed both drivers, five students and three chaperones, said Lt. Bruce Carpenter with the California Highway Patrol. (Credit: CNN)

Testing of two “clone” vehicles was set for the 5 Freeway near the site of the April 10 Orland crash on the 5 Freeway, according to California Highway Patrol officials who spoke at an early afternoon press conference.

CHP is the lead investigator on the crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board is conducting a “concurrent investigations” into the crash, according to Ruben Leal, chief of CHP’s Northern Division.

Officials from both the state and federal agencies said it could be months before the cause of the collision is known. Passengers were being interviewed and new witnesses were still being identified, Leal said.

“We owe it to the families of the involved parties, and the victims of this tragic collision, that we tell the story of what happened, and that we tell it as accurately as possible,” Leal said.

The two vehicles that were set to be tested were provided by FedEx and Silverado Stages, the two companies that had vehicles involved in the crash. The companies had been very cooperative, CHP officials said.

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Witness Bonnie Duran, whose car was hit by the FedEx truck before the big-rig crashed into a bus carrying 48 people, took this picture from the scene in Orland, Calif., on April 10, 2014. (Credit: Bonnie Duran)

“We get like vehicles so we can put them through a similar situation so we can gain the information from those vehicles,” said CHP Capt. Todd Morrison.

The recording devices aboard the truck and the bus were burned so badly that it’s not clear investigators will be able to retrieve information from them, Morrison said. That’s part of the reason for the test, he said.

The computers on board record speed, revolutions per minute and braking information, he said.

Investigators planned to first examine feeds from cameras inside the vehicles to try to see what the two drivers — who were both killed — had seen.

Investigators also planned to do “skid testing” to try to get pre-impact speeds of the vehicles, and to analyze cellphone records related to the crash.

Autopsies for all nine of the victims who died in at the scene have been completed, and all but two of those have been officially identify, Glenn County sheriff Larry Jones said.

A 10th victim, Arthur Arzola from Rancho Cucamonga, was identified by the Sacramento County coroner after he died at a hospital where he was airlifted.

Toxicology reports for all victims had been ordered, and those could take several weeks to be complete, Jones said. A cause of death for the victims would not be issued until after those results were in, he said.

The collision occurred when a FedEx truck hauling two semi-trailers left southbound lanes on the 5 Freeway, crossing a 60-foot grassy median, striking a Nissan Altima and then colliding head-on with a charter bus.

The bus was carrying dozens of seniors from Los Angeles-area schools who has been admitted to Humboldt State University in Arcata, where the bus was headed for a campus preview weekend.

Five students died, as did three adult chaperones and the drivers of the FedEx truck and the bus.

Anyone with information about the crash was asked to call CHP at 530-225-2715.