NEWS
08/29/2014 02:32 EDT | Updated 10/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Coquihalla bus crash not caused by speeding, say RCMP

RCMP say dashboard camera footage from a tractor-trailer which captured a tour bus rolling over on the Coquihalla Highway appears to show speed was not a factor in the crash.

The bus carrying 56 people hit a median on Thursday afternoon about 30 kilometres south of Merritt, B.C., then skidded across several lanes and rolled into a ditch ejecting numerous passengers before landing the right way up.

Air and ground ambulances transported 43 people with the most serious injuries to nearby hospitals in Merritt, Kamloops and Kamloops.

Officials with the Interior Health authority said on Friday morning that seven passengers remain in critical condition, six are in serious condition, 11 are in non-life-threatening condition and 19 have been released from hospital.

An additional 12 passengers with less serious injuries were treated by the Fraser Health Authority, said the official. It was not clear if they had been released.

RCMP Sgt. Brian Nightingale said the dash-cam footage, captured by a truck travelling behind the bus, shows human error or mechanical failure, rather than speed, are the most likely causes.

"It's more an issue that the driver drove into the centre median and then veered too hard trying to get onto the road," Nightingale said.

"We're doing mechanical [inspections] today on the bus, so that will rule out any kind of mechanical factors, like steering and braking and that kind of stuff."

The footage has not been released by police.

Police have confirmed the road was bare and dry at the time and visibility was good.  No other vehicles were involved in the crash.

Many bus passengers from overseas

The passengers were on a tour organized by Super Vacation, a company based in Richmond, B.C., which leased the bus from Western Bus Lines.

Super Vacation company spokesman L. Lau said his company has been in touch with some of the patients, who are being treated at at least seven different hospitals, and has been figuring out ways to provide assistance.

"We have been planning for everything right now," said Lau, who declined to give his full name. "Of course, some of the patients we can't see."

The company has sent chartered buses to bring the passengers who are able to travel back to Vancouver.

The company, which describes itself as the largest Chinese tour operator in North America, has said many of the passengers are from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, though some are from B.C. and elsewhere in Canada.

Lau said it was their last day on the tour of the Rockies and there was nothing on the itinerary as they were returning to Vancouver, so there would be no reason for the bus to be rushing anywhere.

"We are waiting for the police report," Lau said.

He said the bus and driver belonged to Western Bus Lines, which he said is a "major local bus company with 35 years of experience."

Western Bus Lines, based in Kelowna, did not reply to repeated voice messages and emails.

Consulate confirms 2 from Taiwan

Abraham Lin, director of consular services for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver, said his office had confirmed that two of the patients are Taiwanese nationals, a 20-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman.

"They are just studying for the summer and they joined the bus tour for the Rocky Mountains," Lin said.

Lin said his office had been in touch with one of the Taiwanese passengers and had contacted the other's parents in Taiwan.

Neither the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa nor the consulate in Vancouver could be immediately reached, but Super Vacation said the consul general of China in Vancouver was heading to Kelowna to provide assistance.

Photos from the scene on Thursday showed the white bus upright, with visible damage to its side and the Western Bus Lines logo mostly scraped off. Passengers and emergency workers could be seen standing alongside the bus, with debris strewn about the road.