Students Describe Chaos When School Bus Crashes Into Tree

Seventh and eighth graders from El Rancho Middle School were aboard

A school bus with children on board crashed and became stuck against a tree at an Anaheim golf course Thursday afternoon, sending the driver and several students to the hospital, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The Orange Unified School District bus crashed near the Anaheim Hills Golf Course just before 3:40 p.m., officials said.

Eleven El Rancho Charter Middle School students, all seventh and eighth graders, were coming from an after-school activity when the bus crashed into a eucalyptus tree, according to a district statement.

The driver had to be pulled from the wreckage. He and two students remained hospitalized Thursday night, and all are expected to survive, officials said. 

Three other students were treated at the hospital and released.

The lack of skid marks on the road led investigators to believe the bus driver, identified as 24-year-old Gerald Rupple, may not have hit the brakes before the crash, CHP Officer Florentino Olivera told NBC4. They cannot yet determine whether he tried to apply the brakes, he said.

Parents who arrived after the crash said some students appeared to be unconscious, and children were screaming as fuel poured out the back of the bus.

"I hit the seat really hard and then I heard people crying," one student said. "At the last stop that we were at, (the driver) was just standing around the bus for three or four minutes. A student was like, 'Come on, let's go.'"

Cheyenne Asado lived in the area and was one of the first to help at the scene.

"She had blood coming from her head and all over her face," Asado said of a screaming girl she helped pull from the bus.

The girl was having an asthma attack as she dangled from a window, with a visible gash in her head and a missing toe, she said.

"Some people were flying around the bus, some weren't wearing their seat belts," one student said.

Aerial video showed the bus appearing to be bent down the middle where it was leaning against a tree, which had to be chopped down in order to remove the bus.

The Orange Unified School District superintendent's office was notified of the wreck and said Rupple has been working full-time for the district since 2010. The bus passed its last inspection in October 2013.

Nohl Ranch Road was closed between Camino Vista and Stage Coach Road.

NBC4's Vikki Vargas contributed to this report.

Contact Us