The bus, carrying 36 people, struck an SUV that had overturned in front of it, slammed into a concrete center divider and clipped another vehicle shortly after 2 a.m. just outside downtown Fresno, California Highway Patrol Officer Axel Reyes said. The bus went off the right shoulder of the highway and down a 15-foot embankment before hitting a eucalyptus tree and coming to rest on a freeway off-ramp with its front end smashed and tree branches jutting into the vehicle. Twisted pieces of metal, broken glass and torn clothing littered the ground around the wreckage. Arlen Snider, who had been traveling from Phoenix to Sacramento to visit his mother, said he was asleep in the middle section of the bus when the crash occurred. He awoke to the smell of smoke and injured passengers around him. "I woke up on the floor of the bus and started helping people off the bus," Snider, who escaped uninjured, said after arriving at Sacramento's bus terminal. The six dead people included four women and two men. Three of the women were in the overturned SUV, according to officials. Nine people were taken to hospitals with moderate to critical injuries, Reyes said. The bus driver, who was among the dead, was identified as James Jewett, 57, of Sacramento. Jewett died instantly of massive injuries, said Fresno County Coroner Dr. David Hadden. "The front of the bus was destroyed and the front part of the bus was pushed into his driver's seat," Hadden said. The other five people killed had not yet been identified. "I had just woke up and I heard a boom once, and a boom again and the next thing I know we were down this embankment," Linda Gee, a passenger on the bus, told KMPH-TV in Fresno. "I'm alive and I thank God I'm alive," she said. "There was just bleeding everywhere."