SAN MARCOS, Calif. – Eight incoming freshman college students from Japan were riding in a small car that ran off a California freeway and hit a power pole, leaving three of them dead and five of them injured, officials said.
All eight students were in an international program at Palomar College, where 135 Japanese students were staying with host families in the San Diego area, school president Robert Deegan said Friday.
"Any time you lose a student it's a terrible, terrible pain that many people feel has a ripple effect about it, and this is just multiplied by three," he said.
The injured students were expected to survive, Deegan said. He declined to release the names of the victims and said he didn't have any personal information about them.
They were in a 2000 Honda Prelude that crashed late Thursday on state Route 78 in Oceanside, California Highway Patrol Officer Jim Bettencourt said.
The car went down an embankment and struck the pole, shearing it in half and leaving power lines dangling, Bettencourt said. The lines did not touch the ground.
The 19-year-old male driver and two passengers -- a man and woman -- were pronounced dead at the scene. Two women and three men suffered moderate to major injuries.
Other students on campus Friday seemed unaware of the crash or had only heard basic details about it on television.
"I felt really bad because they just got here and started a new life in college," Kurumi Misawa, 19, of Yokohama, Japan, said while studying on a sun-drenched patio.
Japanese students said they found Palomar through placement agencies. They hoped to perfect their English and earn course credits with an eye toward transferring, perhaps to a University of California or California State University campus.
Deegan said he didn't know the circumstances of the crash but that it raised obvious questions about why so many people were in the car, a coupe that usually seats four people.