3 Japanese students die in US crash

California - Three Japanese college students were killed and five others injured when a car carrying them veered off a California freeway and struck a power pole, officials said on Friday.

The eight students were trapped in the 2000 Honda Prelude after the crash late on Thursday on a state highway 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.

All were students and incoming freshmen in the international programme at Palomar College in San Marcos, school spokesperson Laura Gropen said.

They were among 135 Japanese students at the community college and were staying with host families in the San Diego area, college President Robert Deegan said on Friday.

"We have lost three members of the Palomar family, and we are truly reeling from the loss," he said, adding that grievance counsellors had been provided for students, faculty and staff.

The injured were hospitalised but are 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.

Deegan also said he didn't know the circumstances of the crash but added that it raised obvious questions about why so many people were in the car.

Officers were trying to determine if any students were wearing seat belts, Bettencourt said.

"With that many people, there are definitely going to be some people in that car that did not have a seat belt on," he told U-T San Diego.