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A bus carrying workers to a sawmill crashed Thursday afternoon north of Prince George, sending 16 people to hospital, three of them in critical condition.

BC Emergency Health Services says one person was in serious condition and 12 others were stable.

Sixteen other people were uninjured and taken back to Prince George by bus, said Libby Brown of EHS.

Cpl. Craig Douglass of Prince George RCMP said the accident happened on Highway 97 near Mitchell Road around 3:45 p.m. and road conditions were slippery at the time.

Forest products company Canfor said the bus was chartered by them and was transporting employees from Prince George to its Polar Sawmill when it was involved in an accident.

“The accident is currently under investigation by the local authorities,” Michelle Ward, director of corporate communications, said in a statement. “Our focus is on supporting our injured employees and their families.”

Douglass said police got a report of a vehicle off-road collision involving a bus, but when they got to the scene they determined the bus was the only vehicle involved. Snow and rain were falling in the area at the time of the crash with temperature close to freezing, he added.

Eryn Collins, a spokeswoman for Northern Health, said the injured were transported to the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George.

Collins said the hospital had initiated a code orange, which is part of a hospital’s emergency response planning for a mass casualty incident, but it was called off about an hour later.

Drive BC, the provincial government’s road advisory service, says Highway 97 was limited to single-lane alternating traffic Thursday night because of a vehicle incident about 22 kilometres north of Prince George.

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