The bus left a straight section of road on the Cabot Trail, between Neils Harbour and Ingonish, N.S., at about 2.30 p.m. Sunday and rolled into a ditch.
Eighteen of the 21 people on the bus were treated at various hospitals for minor injuries.
RCMP said the bus belongs to Executive Coach, based in Lancaster, Pa. All passengers were American, between the ages of 70 and 80 years old, except for one woman who was travelling with her mother.
Lynn Gilbert, a spokeswoman for the Cape Breton District Health Authority, said one person remains in critical condition in Sydney hospital. Another person remains in serious but stable condition in a Sydney hospital, while a third person who was reported to be in serious but stable condition was transferred to a Halifax hospital.
The fire chief in Neils Harbour said the incident put a strain on local emergency and medical resources.
As a result, skilled volunteers such as Rebecca Doucette were welcomed at the scene.
Doucette, a nurse who lives in Saskatchewan, was home in Cape Breton for her upcoming wedding and was at the scene about half an hour after the crash.
“Some were screaming and crying. I said to my family, it’s surprising, like when something like that happens how people can still joke with you. I mean, through their tears and sadness and everything that’s going on. People were on spine boards in the road, some people were up walking around who still needed help, needed to get on spine boards – everyone was pretty shaken up,” she said.
Doucette said she has been thinking about the elderly people she helped.
“It just hits you how scary this must be for them to be out of the country, all their belongings all in one place, stuck on a bus. Probably their passports, most important stuff. Like how scary of a feeling that must be and now you’re on a spine board in the middle of the road,” she said.
Dr. Andrew Lynk, associate vice-president of medicine with the Cape Breton District Health Authority, was at his cottage in nearby Ingonish when he heard about the crash.
“I dropped what I was doing, and there are about four of five docs that have cottages in the area … So I did the network thing and in about 15 or 20 minutes, we all arrived,” he said.
“I must say, I’m so proud of the staff up there. It’s just a fantastic hospital and the staff are dedicated and very skilled.”
In a strange coincidence, Lynk said the health authority had a disaster planning exercise on this very scenario about a month and a half ago.
“I said what would happen, guys, if a bus went over and we had mass casualties? When was the last time we did an exercise? And it was a year or two ago. I said well we should do another one,” he said.
Lynk said the exercise helped with preparing the CBDHA for communicating better during a disaster such as the bus rollover.
Executive Coach has refused to comment on the crash.
Police are still investigating.