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Homicide charges are weighed in Boyle Heights school bus crash that kills 1, injures 21

October 25, 2010 |  6:26 pm

Criminal homicide charges are being weighed in connection with a hit-and-run accident that killed one person and injured nearly two dozen students aboard a school bus in Boyle Heights on Monday, authorities said.

The driver of a black BMW ran a red light, knocked down a pedestrian and broadsided a school bus that was returning students to Roosevelt High School, according to Miguel Luevano, a California Highway Patrol spokesman.

The BMW’s driver and a passenger jumped out of the car and ran, but both were quickly apprehended by construction workers who had seen the crash, Luevano said.

Authorities said they are investigating whether drunk driving might be involved in the 3:22 p.m. collision at 1st and Soto streets. The BMW driver and passenger are juveniles.

Marco Valdez, 17, a passenger on the bus, told The Times the bus had been coming from the East Los Angeles Skills Center when the car hit a pedestrian and then swerved into the bus. The bus overturned and slid onto a Metrolink platform.

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

Susana Romero, 16, an 11th-grader at Roosevelt High, said she'd been sitting near the back of the bus talking with friends when she heard a “big boom.”

“It made us fly,” she said. “I flipped. I fell to the other side of the bus and then I blacked out.”

When she came to, the bus was on its side and she could hear people crying and moaning. She said there was a lot of broken glass, which seemed to have bloodied a number of students.

“We were all like ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Yes,’ ” Romero said.

She said she crawled to an emergency door at the back of the bus to get out.

The students were among those speaking at the Hollenbeck police station, where she had just been reunited with her mother, Juana Lopez, 39, who was holding her tight. The two live in Boyle Heights. Earlier, her mother had been shaking and in tears as she waited for news of her daughter.

Dozens of spectators, shopkeepers, parents and others gathered at the accident scene as emergency workers assisted students. Among them was L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

“As a parent, one thing we expect is when our kids go to and from school, they are safe,” said Villaraigosa. “We breathe a sigh of relief today that there were no serious or fatal injuries to the children.”

Authorities said 21 people -- all but one students -- were taken to hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries. The bus driver was hospitalized in serious condition.

-- Sam Allen and Kate Linthicum

Photos: School bus crash in Boyle Heights