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Survivors say bus weaved in and out of traffic before deadly crash

Several people were killed and dozens more injured on Sunday when a tour bus collided with a truck and a second vehicle on a mountain road east of Los Angeles.

In the aftermath of the tour bus collision near Los Angeles that left at least seven people dead and another 38 injured, investigators and witnesses were still piecing together the grim details on Monday.

The collision, which occurred at about 6:30 p.m. PST Sunday on Highway 38 near Mentone, Calif., about 80 miles east of Los Angeles, involved the tour bus carrying 39 passengers, a truck and a sedan, officers with the California Highway Patrol said.

“It happened so fast, I don’t know how it all happened,” one passenger told the San Bernadino Sun. “This was supposed to be a good day out with my companions and then this happened.”

A victim’s family member identified many of the passengers from Tijuana, Mexico, who were returning from a skiing and snowboarding trip at the Big Bear Mountain Resort when the bus began swerving.

Surviving passengers aboard the bus said they heard noises they thought were the breaks and smelled something burning and then watched in horror as the bus weaved in and out of traffic for up to three minutes, trying to avoid cars, NBCLosAngeles.com reported.

“I saw a headlight in my rear-view mirror,” Betty Harvey, a witness, told NBCLosAngeles.com. “I moved over and he went flying past. He was swerving all the way down.”

The bus hit a car, then flipped, flinging some passengers 20 feet away from the bus. There was significant damage to the passenger's side of the bus, Ronald Walls, a battalion chief at the San Bernardino County Fire Department, said.

Passengers said the bus driver was stuck under a rock, before he was rescued. CHP Officer Mario Lopez said the driver told investigators the bus suffered brake problems as it headed down the mountain.

Firefighters worked to extricate people from the bus and emergency crews set up triage areas in a "mass casualty" situation, Eric Sherwin, with the San Bernardino County Fire Department told NBCLosAngeles.com

California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Profant said the scene after the crash was shocking. 

"It's really a mess up there with body parts," Profant told The Associated Press. 

Terri Kasinga of the California Department of Transportation described the crash as the worst she's seen in 23 years working for the agency, NBCLosAngeles.com reported.

Nick Ut / Associated Press

San Bernardino investigators examine wreckage on Feb. 4 after a tour bus accident in the Southern California mountains near San Bernardino. The accident killed at least 8 people on Sunday.

CHP officials said there was concern the death toll could rise because some passengers sustained life-threatening injuries. Exact ages of the injured and dead were not immediately known.

The CHP was still on the scene Monday, attempting to determine what led to the deadly crash.

“Speed was probably a factor,” CHP Officer Mario Lopez told NBCLosAngeles.com. “We do not know if there was a mechanical failure or driver error. That’s what investigators at the scene are going to determine.”

Lopez said the bus is owned by Scapadas Magicas LLC, which is based in National City, Calif., and is also listed in Tijuana, Mexico.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday they sent a team to investigate the crash.