5 killed when bus headed for Washington crashes on California highway

ATWATER, Calif. -- A California sheriff says several injured passengers lost limbs when a speeding bus veered off a highway and struck a pole, killing four people.

Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke tells The Associated Press that the bus hit the pole of a highway sign head-on early Tuesday, and it sheared through the vehicle before stopping at the first axle "with a great impact."

Warnke says rescuers brought out "bags of body parts" from the survivors following the crash on State Route 99 just south of Livingston.

The sheriff says the bus operated by Autobuses Coordinados USA was heading to Washington state and was due in Livingston at 1:30 a.m. to change drivers.

Photos and video show the unmarked white bus crashed into the pole of a highway exit sign that appears to have torn through the middle of the vehicle. Emergency workers climbed in through the windows.

Onsurez says the bus with about 30 people aboard was heading from Southern California to Sacramento. The bus was then headed to Pasco, Washington, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A man who survived a pre-dawn bus wreck on a California highway says he was awakened from his sleep when he was thrown into the seat in front of him and then to the floor.

Leonardo Sanchez spoke to The Associated Press in Spanish outside a hospital near where the bus hit a sign post on State Route 99 in the San Joaquin Valley early Tuesday.

Sanchez says he found himself in a chaotic scene: passengers were screaming and crying, some called for help and some were unable to move.

The 55-year-old says the impact left him with pain in his stomach and a bruised jaw and mouth.

Atwater is a city of 28,000 people in Merced County, about 65 miles northwest of Fresno.