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Authorities identify six killed in bus crash near Fresno

July 22, 2010 |  4:10 pm

Three young women in a sport utility vehicle were among the dead in a crash early Thursday outside Fresno involving a Greyhound bus that had left Los Angeles for Sacramento.

The women were traveling on California 99 about 2 a.m. when their dark blue SUV swerved and struck a median, then rolled over, blocking the fast lane, said Jim Abrames, central division chief for the California Highway Patrol.

They were identified as Stephenie Cordoba, 20, and Vanessa Gonzalez, 19, both of Fresno, and Sylvia Lopez Garay, 18, of Dinuba.

The Greyhound bus that had just left the Fresno station hit the SUV, sending both vehicles spinning down an embankment and into a eucalyptus tree. A third car, a silver Honda, also was involved and ended up under the tree as well, Abrames said.

In addition to the three women, bus driver James Jewette, 57, of Sacramento died, as did passengers Epifania Solis, 60, of Madera and Thomas Ponce, 79, of Mexico. He was traveling to the Central Valley town of Winton with his wife to visit his grandchildren, Abrames said.

Jewette had worked as a bus driver for 32 years and had been on duty since 7 p.m. Wednesday.

It remained unclear if the women in the SUV were killed by the bus collision or if they had died before.

Many in the bus, carrying about 40 passengers, were injured and treated at hospitals. Four people suffered major injuries, authorities said.

-- Diana Marcum in Fresno