5 Killed in Merced County Bus Crash

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LIVINGSTON -- Five people were killed Tuesday morning when a charter bus on northbound Highway 99 in Merced County hit a pole with such force that the bus was nearly split in half.

More than a dozen people were hurt, with at least six being taken away via helicopter to hospitals in Modesto.

"This is the first time and only time that I’ve seen this,” Officer Moises Onsurez, CHP Merced said.

CHP Merced said the driver, 57-year-old Mario David Vazquez of Los Angeles, veered off Highway 99 northbound and into the Hammett Avenue sign in Merced County around 3:30 Tuesday morning.

“At this point, we do not know the reason behind the unsafe turning movement,” Onsurez told us.

All 30 plus passengers were just minutes away from their next stop in Livingston when the accident happened. CHP said the bus’ company, Autobuses Coordinados USA, had come from Mexico and was on its way to Pasco, Washington. The accident snarled up traffic for hours as investigators pored through the torn charter bus for clues.

CHP and Caltrans worked to reopen Highway 99 throughout the day, the fast lane was reopened around 2 p.m. while the rest of the highway is scheduled to reopen around 6.