The numbers are staggering. When a tour bus rolled over near Merritt, B.C., Thursday afternoon, all 56 people on board were hurt. The BC Ambulance Service dispatched 19 ambulances to bring the injured to hospital. Five air ambulances were sent to the scene.
In all, 35 people sustained minor injuries, 15 sustained “code yellow” injuries (which are more serious but not life threatening, such as compound fractures) and six are in critical condition, according to Sergeant Norm Flemming with Merritt RCMP.
The accident occurred in the southbound lane of the Coquihalla Highway at about 3 p.m. local time on Thursday, about 30 kilometres south of the city in the province’s south-central Interior.
Daniel Parsons was driving home toward Kelowna from Chilliwack when he came upon the crash. “I came upon it shortly after it happened,” he said “… There was a whole pile of people out on the side of that bus. The bus had flipped over. It was back on its wheels just sitting in the grass along the highway, and then right alongside it just a ton of people there getting helped out by all the paramedics, ambulance attendants and so on. You could see some blood on the side of the bus. … It was just a rough scene.”
All of the passengers appear to be of Asian descent, according to the RCMP. There were two interpreters with the passengers.
Interior Health Authority has initiated a Code Orange at two of its hospitals, Royal Inland Hospital and Kelowna General, said spokeswoman Michaela Swan. A Code Orange signals that a hospital is expecting to receive a significant number of patients due to a disastrous event, Ms. Swan said. She added that it allows a hospital to bring in extra staff and resources.
Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops has already started to receive some patients from the accident and is expecting up to 40, Ms. Swan said. Kamloops General is expecting roughly 20 patients. Information regarding the conditions of the patients was not yet available.
The bus belonged to Western Bus Lines Ltd., which operates bus trips – such as wine, golf and ski tours – throughout B.C. It was heading from the Okanagan to Metro Vancouver at the time of the crash.
Western Bus Lines did not make a company representative available to speak with The Globe and Mail on Thursday. A man who answered the phone at Sunwest Tours, which has a partnership with Western Bus Lines, said the bus in question was not part of a Sunwest tour.
The Coquihalla Highway remained closed between Kingsvale (Coldwater Road) and Merritt Thursday evening.