SAN JOSE, Calif. — A bus full of sleeping passengers awoke wto a freeway nightmare Tuesday morning when their Greyhound bus overturned on a rain-drenched Highway 101 in South San Jose, killing two women and injuring at least nine others including a child, authorities and witnesses said.

Potentially making the situation more tragic is a passenger’s claim that the bus driver, who admitted to fatigue, was dozing off in the moments leading up to the crash in the northbound lanes approaching the flyover connector to Highway 85. The bus left Los Angeles on Monday night and was heading to stops in downtown San Jose and San Francisco en route to Oakland.

“Everything is under investigation,” Greyhound spokeswoman Lanesha Gipson said. “We’re investigating everything that took place between when the bus left Los Angeles and when the collision occurred.”

The crash occurred around 6:40 a.m., and a witness trailing the bus told the California Highway Patrol that 200 feet before the flyover ramp, the bus changed into a carpool lane, lost traction, got briefly airborne, and landed on its right side.

“It sounded like a lightning strike hit the bus,” passenger Alex Ehlers, of Denver, told KCBS and other assembled media. “Then I just heard people yelling, people screaming, smoke coming from the rear of the bus.”

GRISLY SCENE

Ehlers also recalled a “loud scraping sound” for 10 to 15 seconds, followed by a feeling of being “weightless” and then the bus “see-sawing” on the center median. When he climbed out with his girlfriend, he described a grisly scene.

“There were people lying face down in the concrete,” Ehlers said.

CHP Sgt. Lisa Brazil said passengers on the bus told investigators that most of the people on board were sleeping at the time of the crash. That might also include the unnamed bus driver, who Ehlers said appeared to be nodding off at the wheel.

“About 10 miles earlier, the bus driver pulled over to catch himself, and was unable to,” he said. “I could feel him weaving and jerking the wheel a little bit, and I knew that it just wasn’t going to end right.”

The CHP later said that the driver told investigators that he was fatigued prior to the crash and got coffee at an earlier stop in Gilroy. The driver reportedly also told the CHP that he remembered hitting crash barrels on the roadway and then the bus being on its side.

PARALLEL PROBES

Gipson said she could not comment on the fatigue claim about the driver but asserted that Greyhound drivers are required to have at least nine hours of sleep before a trip, which is one hour more than federal recommendations for any 10-hour driving period.

The crash investigation is expected to involve Greyhound as well as the California Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT), which Brazil said was summoned to the area from San Luis Obispo. MAIT investigators will compile a 24-hour profile of the driver and check the bus for mechanical problems.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also sending a federal Highway Investigation Team to run a parallel safety investigation.