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3 dead when SUV collides with college cross-country team van

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW:University's cheerleading coach dies in crash
  • Four critically injured, three of them "very critical"
  • NEW: A total of 16 people were injured
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(CNN) -- At least three people were killed and 16 injured -- four of them critically -- after a sports utility vehicle collided with a van carrying members of the California Baptist University's cross-country team, officials said Tuesday.

Two of the dead were in the SUV; the third was in the van, said California Highway Patrol Officer Dennis Cleland.

Of the four critically injured, three are "very critical," Highway Patrol Sgt. Rich Underwood said Tuesday. Two were flown to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nevada, according to the collision report from the Highway Patrol. Underwood said they suffered third-degree burns. The third person was taken to West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in the San Fernando Valley, the report said.

The van, which had 13 occupants, was part of a three-vehicle convoy heading north on U.S. Hwy 395 when the crash occurred five miles south of the southern California city of Bishop about 8:30 p.m. (11:30 p.m. ET) Monday.

The Ford SUV with five occupants was traveling southbound when it apparently lost control, the report said. "The SUV rolled through the asphalt center divider into northbound traffic lanes, where it struck the front of a California Baptist University van that was carrying members of the university's cross-country team," according to the report.

A Subaru with one person inside then struck the SUV, which was already engulfed in flames from the first collision, the report said.

The van's driver was killed and the 12 passengers sustained injuries ranging from minor to serious, the report said, with one critical. The Subaru's driver had a small area of third-degree burns and complained of pain to her left arm. The three remaining passengers in the SUV sustained third-degree burns and "multiple areas of trauma to the body," the report said.

The team was headed to Mammoth Lakes to take part in a high-altitude training camp, said Mark Wyatt, vice president for communications at the private Christian college.

The university said in a statement on its website that cheerleading coach Wendy Rice was killed when driving the van.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic event," said University President Ronald Ellis in the statement. Rice is survived by her husband and two young children, the school said. A memorial service would be scheduled on the university's Riverside campus, the statement said.

Underwood said it was his understanding that the SUV was carrying track students headed from a camp at Mammoth Lakes, but did not have further information.

A deputy with the Inyo County Sheriff's Department, who saw the crash occur in his rearview mirror, was able to rescue a male adult from the Ford SUV, but could not reach additional passengers, the report said. One passenger, ejected from the SUV, was burned but was able to walk briefly. However, the person died at the scene.

Wyatt said that the parents of the students in all three vans have been informed of the crash.

CNN's Samuel Gardner, Kara Devlin and Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.