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An investigation continued Tuesday into a highway collision involving a school bus that sent eight people to hospital in Edmonton, including five in critical condition.

Authorities have said the bus and a mobile crane collided Monday morning near Smoky Lake, which is about 115 kilometres northeast of the Alberta capital.

RCMP Cpl. Ronald Bumbry said a preliminary investigation shows that the bus was headed north on a rural road and the crane was westbound on the highway.

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Witnesses told police that the bus had stopped at a stop sign, then started crossing the highway when the collision happened.

“It was T-boned on the loading side – that’s opposite obviously of the driver – right near the back axle or right in front of the back wheel,” he said Tuesday.

Police said they hadn’t received any reports of fatalities from Alberta Health Services. The health authority hadn’t provided any updates on the bus driver and injured students, who police said are between the ages of six and 16.

Bumbry said the crane operator has been released from hospital and a passenger in the crane wasn’t injured.

There were no charges as of Tuesday, he said.

“The RCMP collision analyst was on scene taking various data and evidence from the scene there and the investigation does continue,” Bumbry said.

He said there didn’t appear to be anything blocking the view at the intersection and road conditions were clear at the time.

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“We can’t speculate at this point as to what transpired,” he said. “Inspections will be done on both vehicles to determine whether they were road safe.”

Bumbry said the inspections could take two to three weeks and investigators were also looking at the training of both drivers.

Police wouldn’t speculate on whether seatbelts on the bus would have helped.

“It’s impossible to say in these types of collisions,” Bumbry said.

He added that their thoughts remain with the parents and students involved in the crash.

“A parent is normally going about their day and is not expecting to receive that call,” he said. “We’re glad at this point that there has been no fatalities. Very serious injuries, but no fatalities reported.”

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A GoFundMe account had been created by a former resident of Smoky Lake to help the families with expenses while their children are in an Edmonton hospital.

“It’s a very close-knit community so we all kind of know each other and support each other,” said Shelby Henry, who noted a friend’s niece was on the bus.

“It’s just tragic what’s happened and I can’t imagine the costs that are going to be associated with all of these families needing to take time off work and having to stay away from their homes.”

The fundraiser had raised about $7,000 by Tuesday afternoon.

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