“If the tree wasn’t there to stop the bus, it would have continued down the ravine,” Greene said.
The 15 injured passengers and a tour guide were taken to local hospitals for treatment.
Four of the injured were treated at Community Regional Medical Center, and four were treated at Clovis Community Medical Center, said Jennifer Avila-Allen, a spokeswoman for the hospitals. All but one at Community Regional had been released, she said. The conditions of the others, taken to a different hospital, were not known.
The bus was towed to an impound yard where it will be inspected to see if any mechanical problems may have contributed to the crash, Jobinger said.
The bus driver, identified as Changefeng Liu, 49, of Fremont, Calif., was the only person on the bus who was not hurt. He has not been arrested, and alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash.
Investigators have not determined the exact speed of the bus at the time it went off the road, but the scenic highway has sharp curves where the speed limits drop to 35 miles per hour, Jobinger said.
The bus is operated by Seven Happiness Tour & Charter, a Burlingame, Calif.-based company that specializes in providing tours to the Chinese-American community, said Charles Wu, who works at the company and answered the phone at its headquarters Sunday. He said the owner would not be available to comment until today.
“Most of (the passengers) were Chinese people from the Bay Area,” Wu said.
Wu said he had not talked to the bus driver since the crash and had few details about the incident, but said Liu had worked for the company for about six years.
Liu could not be reached for comment.
The tour bus company, which operates six motor coaches and six mini-buses or vans, has not had any crashes in the past 24 months, according to records with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.