Braving the elements of a snow-covered highway, members of the Princeton & District Highway Extrication Society responded to the scene of a charter bus crash near Allison Lake late last week.
Doug Pateman, a member of the rescue team and also a Princeton Councillor, says the roads near the crash site were quite dangerous due to the heavy snow.
“The roads hadn’t been plowed very well at all, due to the fact the snow was falling so heavily. And because there had been so much traffic, everything had become compact on the road surface,” he said.
Upon arriving at the scene, they were able to force open the passenger door of the bus and get everyone out safely, but the arduous task took almost two hours.
“We could get it open eight inches, but that was it. This allowed me enough room to climb inside with the ambulance attendant,” explains Pateman.
“We assessed the priorities and then made the decision to remove the right front windshield. We basically had a stepladder at the front of the bus on the outside; I stayed on the inside doing the splits against the door and the steps, and handed passengers out.”
Pateman says it was an outstanding group effort between the RCMP, BCAS and his team.
“The ambulance attendant that was working the bus from the inside did an absolute bang up job of keeping everyone calm, keeping in control of the passengers, assessing the priorities and working with me to decide who should go first.
“For the potential that could have been, as far as panic and agitation, everyone on scene did an incredible job. We’d been practicing on the eventuality of a bus (crash) and of course as soon as we got the call, everyone said ‘Oh boy, here it comes.’”
Once passengers were off-loaded, they were transferred onto an empty Shriners' bus that just happened to be passing by on its way to Kelowna.
The driver of that bus says he came upon the accident roughly 10 minutes after it happened and stayed until emergency crews were able to extract the passengers.
“Once we got them all loaded up, we only got about five miles down the road and we had to stop again for an hour and a half. There were two tractor-trailers that jackknifed,” says Shriners Secretary Jim Harrison.
After that accident was cleared, the bus continued on its way to Kelowna and dropped everyone off at the Greyhound bus terminal.