A malfunctioning hydraulic trash compactor blasted through the side of a garbage truck Wednesday and ripped open the side of a passing school bus, killing two children.
A third child was hospitalized in critical condition.
The bus, taking 48 youngsters to an elementary school, was eastbound and the municipal garbage truck was coming from the opposite direction on a busy thoroughfare, police said.
The truck was in use despite a trouble report.
A 12-foot arm, which pushes a ram to compact trash inside the truck, punched through the side of the vehicle with a force of 1,500 pounds per square inch, said Roland Silva, spokesman for the Sanitation Department.
“It was like a missile coming out of a launch pad,” Silva said.
The arm projecting from the side of the truck then raked the left side of the oncoming bus, smashing windows and bending frame posts, said Officer Rhett Price of the California Highway Patrol.
City officials were investigating why the truck was in use after a different driver reported problems with the hydraulic system Tuesday.
Officials couldn’t say why the truck was in use. “We don’t know what happened
between that time and this morning,” sanitation spokeswoman Gyl Elliott said.
Mayor Richard Riordan ordered inspections of nearly 400 trucks with a similar design, about half the city’s fleet.
Killed were Francisco Mata and Brian Serrano, both 8-year-old third-graders at Glen Alta Elementary School.
An 8-year-old boy, whose name was withheld, was in critical condition with a head injury, said Ron Yukelson, spokesman for Childrens Hospital. The other youngsters escaped with minor injuries.
Truck driver Kenneth Fox, 28, was distraught.
“He was crying because he saw the babies on the street,” said a witness.