At least eight people were killed and dozens more injured when a tour bus returning to Mexico from a Southern California ski resort crashed on a mountain road and rolled over, ejecting several passengers, police said on Monday.
The bus driver, who survived the Sunday evening crash, reported to authorities that the motor coach experienced a mechanical failure of some kind at the time of the accident, California Highway Patrol Sergeant Billy Rangel told Reuters.
Rangel said he could not elaborate, but local media accounts cited unconfirmed reports of issues with the brakes.
There was no immediate indication that alcohol or drugs or road conditions were factors in the crash, which occurred at about 6:30 p.m. on Highway 38 near the town of Yucaipa, about 70 miles (113 km) east of Los Angeles, Rangel said.
The chartered bus was carrying a group of people home from a ski outing in California's Big Bear Lake resort area back to Tijuana, Mexico, when it struck a car from behind on the way down the mountain and careened out of control, Rangel said.
The motor coach than rolled over on its side and slid into a pickup truck that was heading uphill in the opposite direction, throwing several passengers from the bus, he said.
Rangel said eight people were confirmed killed and roughly 35 others were taken to hospitals with injuries, one of them in critical condition. The drivers of the car and pickup truck struck by the bus also survived, he said.
He said authorities were still trying to determine the precise number of people who were on the bus at the time.
The bus was operated by Scapadas Magicas, a tour company based in National City, Southern California, Highway Patrol spokesman Mario Lopez said. The firm also operates in Tijuana.
The highway is one of three roads leading to Big Bear Lake, a mountainous recreational area popular with skiers.
One motorist who said she pulled over to let the bus pass her on the highway shortly before the accident told City News Service (CNS) that the bus had appeared behind her at a rate of speed that led her to believe it was having brake difficulties.
"I saw headlights in my rear-view mirror and I just pulled over to the side of the road," Betty Harvey told CNS, adding that she encountered the crash scene further downhill moments later.