NEWS

Tour Bus Crash On Coquihalla Highway Injures Dozens

06/27/2015 09:02 EDT | Updated 06/27/2016 05:59 EDT
Canadian Press

MERRITT, B.C. - Mounties expect to recommend charges after a tour bus slammed into a tow truck and a car in British Columbia's Southern Interior, sending dozens to hospital and snarling traffic on Saturday.

B.C. Emergency Health Services said two people were airlifted to hospital in serious condition and about 36 others suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The crash happened just before 10 a.m. on the Coquihalla Highway near Brookmere, B.C., about 40 kilometres south of Merritt.

Wendy Georgenson said the tow truck was just hooking onto the car when the bus crashed into it. About five people were standing around the truck at the time, she said.

"That's where one guy broke his leg. One guy was holding his ribs and puking. They were screaming. It was mayhem," she said. "Then the bus hit the railing and it was like out of a movie. It was just horrible."

An employee at Universal Coach Line in Richmond, B.C., confirmed one of its tour buses was involved in the crash, but declined to give further information.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Mike Pears said an investigation is in its early stages but charges are pending.He said the car needed to be towed after crashing into a deer. Shortly after the tow truck arrived, the bus crashed into it.

The tour guide and tow truck operator sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries, while the driver of the car and a passenger were also injured, he said.

Pears said there were 30 people on the bus and many sustained minor injuries.

Brad Noort, who was camping in the area and saw the crash, said a man was ejected from the bus and into the water.

Interior Health said 24 people, most with non-life-threatening injuries, were admitted to hospitals in Kelowna, Kamloops and Merritt, B.C. Patients were also being accepted in Hope, B.C.

About a dozen ground ambulances and four air ambulances responded to the scene. Merritt Fire was sending tents and a command vehicle.C.J. Hodgson said she was travelling southbound at around 10:30 a.m. when she passed a tour bus with severe damage to its front end.

"The front third or so of the bus is either ripped off or smashed in. It's wide open. You can see into the bus," she said.She said the hoods of a tow truck and a small car were smashed in and the air bags were inflated.

Hodgson said the bus appeared to have crashed into a highway railing and a handful of people were looking over it at the drop below. Another group of people were standing on the road.

"It's a big drop. If they're looking for something other than their belongings, that's scary," she said.Drive B.C. said the highway was closed northbound at Exit 250 while southbound traffic reopened just before 4 p.m. Mounties expected road closures and traffic delays to continue until 8 p.m.

Kyla Guido said she saw a tour bus with a smashed windshield and at least two passengers lying on the road when she drove by the scene earlier Saturday.Guido said the tow truck was sideways on the highway with damage, and a small red car also appeared to have significant damage.

(The Canadian Press, CHNL, CFJC)— By Laura Kane in Vancouver