April 11, 2014 at 7:57 AM ET
A high school senior who survived a fiery crash after a FedEx big rig crashed into the tour bus he was riding on admitted “I’ve been better” but expressed gratitude Friday for being alive.
Jonathan Gutierrez, a 17-year-old California student, received significant cuts to his chin and right eyebrow in the accident, and escaped the burning bus through a window smashed open by another student.
“There was an emergency exit but there were too many people in the bus trying to get out, so students that were there broke the windows, and that helped a lot of us get out safely — not safely, but get out of the bus," he told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie.
Gutierrez, who was riding Thursday with other high school students on a tour bus headed to Humboldt University for a campus visit, had drifted off to sleep when he was woken up by people around him screaming. He felt the crash seconds later as the truck slammed into their vehicle.
“When the impact hit, I flew from my seat to the seat in front of me and that caused the cut on my eyebrow,” he said. “From there, I realized we were in a bad accident and the entire aisle was full of smoke, and that’s when students were trying to escape the tour bus.”
Ten people were killed and 34 injured in the accident, which occurred on Interstate 5 in Northern California, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Gutierrez said when he made it outside, he saw fire coming from the two vehicles and injured people trying to cross the street.
“It was a very, like, surreal moment,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it myself but it was happening.”
“I felt so relieved just to have him there just to be able to have someone to comfort me,” he said.