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2 detained, drunk driving investigated in school bus crash that kills 1, injures dozens

October 25, 2010 |  5:07 pm

Authorities said they are investigating whether drunk driving might have been involved in the accident that killed one person and injured dozens of students aboard a school bus in Boyle Heights on Monday.

Witnesses told The Times that a black BMW ran a red light and hit the bus and that the car's driver and a passenger jumped out of the BMW and ran away. But they were captured by two construction workers who saw the crash, said witness Ray Thibodeaux, who was visiting a tire shop in the area.

The California Highway Patrol said two people had been detained.

Marco Valdez, 17, a passenger on the bus, told The Times the bus had been coming from the East Los Angeles Skills Center, an off-campus school for students from Roosevelt High. He said he saw a car hit a pedestrian and swerve and hit the back of the bus.

The bus then overturned onto the Metrolink platform at the corner of Soto and East 1st streets.

“Some kids at the front of the bus were bleeding and scraped up, but everybody seemed all right,” Marco said.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey told KCAL-TV that the majority of the children on the bus suffered only minor injuries and that most got off the bus before firefighters arrived at the scene. He said the bus was operated by a private company.

Fire Capt. Steve Ruda said 54 high school students had been on the bus, and 16 were being treated for non-critical injuries. 

Officials believe the fatality was a pedestrian hit during the accident.

Witness Jose Cisneros said he was cutting hair at his 1st Street shop when he heard a loud boom. When he rushed outside, he saw the bus on its side in the plaza area at the Metro stop at 1st and Soto. Cisneros said the bus was filled with screaming children, some of whom appeared to be bloodied.

He said he saw an apparently lifeless man on the ground, one of his hands severed.

Dozens of people were at the scene: students being interviewed by investigators, local merchants and anxious parents.

-- Sam Allen and Kate Linthicum

Photo: Firefighters and paramedics attend to the wounded at the scene. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez /Los Angeles Times