Officials: Truck driver fell asleep in fatal collision

This photo provided by the Washington State Patrol shows the scene of an accident in which a motorist was killed and five students and others were injured in a crash involving a school bus, box truck and car near Orondo in Central Washington state Thursday, March 5, 2015. Two people in the truck were seriously hurt, according to the Washington State Patrol. Most injuries to the students and driver of the Orondo School District bus were minor, but one student may have a serious injury, Trooper Darren Wright said. (AP Photo/Washington State Patrol)
This photo provided by the Washington State Patrol shows the scene of an accident in which a motorist was killed and five students and others were injured in a crash involving a school bus, box truck and car near Orondo in Central Washington state Thursday, March 5, 2015. Two people in the truck were seriously hurt, according to the Washington State Patrol. Most injuries to the students and driver of the Orondo School District bus were minor, but one student may have a serious injury, Trooper Darren Wright said. (AP Photo/Washington State Patrol)

ORONDO, Wash. (AP) – Investigators say it appears the driver of a large box truck fell asleep before the truck crossed the center line of a rural central Washington highway, colliding with a car and a school bus.

The crash Thursday morning killed the car’s driver and sent dozens of students to a hospital for evaluation.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Darren Wright says the truck driver was cited in a collision that caused an injury in the same area just over a year ago. The trooper says the truck driver crossed the center line in that crash as well.

Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee confirms that the female bus driver, the truck driver and a truck passenger are in satisfactory condition. A 12-year-old girl passenger in the car was treated and released.

Authorities say 43 students taken to the hospital after the bus crashed have been sent home after evaluation.

The State Patrol said the motorist, Carmela Cuellar Morales, 22, of Orondo, died at the scene. A 12-year-old passenger in her car was injured and taken to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee.

The driver of the Orondo School District bus and at least five students suffered minor injuries.

A total of 43 students were taken to the hospital to be checked out, even those without obvious injuries, Douglas County Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal said.

None of the students were admitted, Trooper Darren Wright said.

The crash occurred about 8 a.m. on Highway 97, about 5 miles north of the small community of Orondo. The roadway was clear and dry at the time, and the weather was sunny and clear.

The State Patrol was investigating whether alcohol or drugs might have been a factor in the crash.

Orondo has one school, a combination elementary-middle school with about 160 students.

Gjesdal said it was the worst accident he had seen in his 30-year law enforcement career.

“Anything involving a school bus causes great concern – sad, sad,” he said.

Millie Watkins, superintendent of the Orondo School District, agreed. “Obviously, this has been upsetting for everyone,” she said.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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