ANAHEIM, CA - Eleven middle school students and their driver were injured when a school bus jumped a curb Thursday and rammed into trees in Southern California, authorities said.
Three of the injured -- the driver and two of the children -- were taken to hospitals in critical condition after the 3:30 p.m. crash, Anaheim police Lt. Bob Dunn said. The other nine students had minor injuries, and most of them were released to their parents.
Television news reports show the Orange Unified School District bus tilted sideways and leaning against a tree on a roadside embankment next to Anaheim Hills Golf Course. Police said no other vehicles were involved in the crash.
The driver was trapped inside the bus, and firefighters removed him before he was taken to the hospital.
The bus was taking students home from an after-school activity at El Rancho Charter Middle School in Anaheim when it crashed, said a statement from Michael L. Christensen, superintendent of the Orange Unified School District.
Jak Pintches, 14, said the bus went off the road during a turn and hit a tree and a lamp post.
"I flew out of my seat and hit the other side of the bus" and injured his back, the teenager told the Orange County Register.
Part of a tree went into the bus and cut a girl on the leg, he said.
After the crash, someone ran up and told everyone to get off because the bus was leaking gasoline, he said.
The California Highway Patrol, which is heading the investigation, said preliminary evidence shows the driver may not have hit the brakes before crashing.
"I don't see any skid marks," CHP spokesman Florentino Olivera told the Los Angeles Times. "It looks like he went straight into the tree."
Witness Andrea Shurtz, one of many people driving nearby who saw the crash, said the bus was going very fast when it hit a curb and appeared to go airborne.
"It came flying down the hill," Shurtz told KABC-TV, "and took out trees along the way."
Shurtz said the driver and several students were hanging out of the bus's windows and yelling for help from passing drivers.
"Kids were screaming. Gas was pouring out the back," Shurtz said. "People just came running from everywhere."
The bus was equipped with seat belts, police said, but it wasn't clear how many of the students were wearing them at the time of the crash.
The crash was in Anaheim Hills, an affluent community within the city of Anaheim about 10 miles east of Disneyland and 30 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles.