NEWS
07/23/2011 03:03 EDT | Updated 09/22/2011 05:12 EDT

Four Still In Hospital In U.S. After Fiery Bus Crash Involving Ontario Tourists

LONDON, Ont. - Four people remained in U.S. hospitals Saturday following a fiery bus crash a day earlier involving a tractor trailer and a bus carrying tourists from Ontario.

The tour bus was attempting to merge back onto the highway between Rochester and Syracuse around 1:30 a.m. Friday when it was hit by the tractor trailer and burst into flames, New York State Police said.

AP File

LONDON, Ont. - Four people remained in U.S. hospitals Saturday following a fiery bus crash a day earlier involving a tractor trailer and a bus carrying tourists from Ontario.

The tour bus was attempting to merge back onto the highway between Rochester and Syracuse around 1:30 a.m. Friday when it was hit by the tractor trailer and burst into flames, New York State Police said.

The U.S. driver of the transport truck was killed. About 40 bus passengers were sent to hospital _ most of them were either treated and released or had declined treatment by Friday evening.

The 52 passengers on the bus were in a tour group organized by the Ontario-based insurance firm London Life. They ranged in age from 15 to 72, police said.

London Life said Saturday that four people were still in hospital in the United States. The company declined to provide further information on their status, citing privacy issues.

"All others who wished to return to Canada and were able to do so, are now back home," London Life said in a statement.

Three of the hospitalized people were in satisfactory condition at Strong Memorial Hospital, a hospital spokesperson said.

A fourth person was in Upstate University Hospital in good condition.

Another patient had been admitted Friday to Thompson Hospital in stable condition. It was not known whether this person had been released, as a hospital spokesperson was not available to comment on Saturday.

Other passengers from the bus started to return home Friday evening.

Jeff Shaughnessy said he went to pick up his in-laws at the bus station in Hamilton around 10:30 p.m. Friday. About 20 people returned on the bus, he said.

"There were some people who were very hesitant to get back on the bus and some people I believe that didn't take that option," said Shaughnessy.

The travellers, Mark Conley and wife Norma, were shaken up but otherwise OK, said Shaughnessy's wife Lisa. They have now returned to their home in London, Ont.

Seriously injured travellers were either still in hospital in New York state or were flown home, said Jeff Shaughnessy.

The crash propelled passengers from their seats and forced injured victims to quickly abandon the vehicle, relatives said.

"It was like the scene out of a horror picture," said Magee Fire Chief Glenn Briggs, who was one of the first people at the crash scene.

"We had a large section of the roadway that was on fire and both the truck and bus were completely engulfed."

Police said on Friday that two people were critically injured in the crash. Briggs said two people at the scene appeared to be suffering from injuries to their legs _ these would be considered critical.

Meanwhile, police are investigating how fast the bus was travelling and where it was on the road when it was hit by the transport truck.

"It probably wasn't up to speed," trooper Mark O'Donnell of New York State Police said. "That's what we're looking at right now. We're not sure if the bus was totally in the lane or on the shoulder."

Police said the bus had pulled over to the side of the road because an emissions malfunction light had come on, and the driver had to wait for it to turn off before continuing to drive.

The bus had its emergency flashers on as it attempted to merge, they said.

The transport truck driver, Timothy Hume, 59, of Dryden, Mich., died at the scene.

The driver of the bus, Rene Bisson of Welland, Ont., will be charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, New York State police said.

Bisson is banned from driving in the state because he was ticketed twice for speeding in a 36-month period between 2003 and 2006, said Maj. Mark Koss.

"His licence in Canada was good," Koss said. "But his privilege to operate a commercial motor vehicle, which is a bus, in New York state was suspended."

Farr's Coachlines Ltd. of Dunnville, Ont., near Hamilton, which owned the bus, declined comment Saturday.