A 17-year-old Grant High School student described his dramatic escape from a fiery bus crash in Northern California and his daring efforts to help other who were trapped. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Friday, April 11, 2014.
Seventeen-year-old Bryant Blanco’s decision to switch seats during the bus ride to Humboldt State University may have saved his life.
The Grant High School senior told NBC4 that he started the trip near the front of the bus, talking with Adrian Castro, one of the students who died in Thursday’s tragic crash when the bus they were riding with collided head-on with a FedEx truck near Orland, Calif.
Blanco was in the second to last row at the time of the crash. He moved from the front of the bus to the back during a rest stop.
"I was asleep and I felt the bus brake and that’s what woke me up, because my forehead hit the seat in front of me," Blanco said. "A second later I just see the bus, I just feel the impact. Everyone starts flying around."
Blanco said that many students were trying to leave the bus through the same emergency exit.
"One of the students he was like, 'Everybody get out, the bus is on fire it could blow. You never know if its going to blow,'" Blanco said.
Blanco said many students were trying to leave through the same emergency exit, and that he went to the other side of the bus to exit.
"There was no one on the other side of the bus, so instead of the left side I went to the right side of the bus where there was no one there," Blanco said. "I just pushed the window open, I just jumped and I just ran away."
On Blanco’s way out, he said he found another student on the highway unable to stand up.
"He was on his knees laying forward and I was like 'Man, you got to get up, you got to get up, you gotta get out of here, what if the bus explodes?' He says 'I can’t walk,' so I got down to like one knee, and I was like, 'I’ll help you up,' Blanco said.
Blanco and teen crossed the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 to safety.
"When we got there, I immediately heard an explosion," Blanco said. "From only the front (of the bus) being on fire, to the whole bus engulfed in flames and throwing off smoke."
Ten people died in the crash – five students, three chaperones, the bus driver and the driver of the FedEx truck.
"I saw people get crushed and disappear. So now I’m just like, move on, try to move on," Blanco said.
Norte Vista High School senior Marisol Serrato, Grant High School football player Adrian Castro, 26-year-old college admissions counselor Arthur Arzola and recently-engaged couple Michael Myvett and Mattison Haywood have been identified as victims in the crash.
Despite his injuries, Blanco’s mother is just grateful her son is safe.
"My son is alive, and that’s it. I’m sorry for all the people,” Blanco’s mother Aracaeli Lopez said.