2 BC teens survive Oregon bus crash
Dec 31, 2012 / 7:26 am
Among the passengers on a B.C. company's bus that crashed through a guardrail on what is being called a deadly stretch of highway in Oregon, killing nine people, are two teenage boys who moved to Vancouver from Korea two years ago, according to a report.
The Oregonian says the two teens were among passengers injured in the Sunday morning crash when the charter bus, which was en route from Las Vegas to Vancouver, went through a guardrail and plummeted 33 metres down a steep embankment.
The Interstate 84 stretch of highway near Pendleton — an 11-kilometre section of road that winds down a hill — is so notorious that transportation officials have published a specific advisory warning of its dangers, according to The Associated Press.
Reports of the number aboard the bus vary. The number injured also hasn't been verified, with reports that anywhere from two dozen to 39 have received treatment. The bus crashed near the start of the section of road and came to rest at the bottom of a snowy slope, landing beaten and battered but upright with little or no debris visible around the crash site.
The Oregonian says the two Vancouver teens were released Sunday night to a makeshift shelter at the Convention Center in Pendleton. The 17-year-old had a broken collarbone and had his arm in a sling, and the 16-year-old was not injured.
"I thought I was going to die," the newspaper quotes the 17-year-old as saying through a translator, adding that the teens declined to give their names.
The newspaper also said the driver of the bus, owned by Mi Joo Tour & Travel in Vancouver, survived the crash but was so severely injured that the driver couldn't give any information about it, said police.
The Associated Press also quotes another newspaper, The East Oregonian, as saying it spoke with two South Korean passengers aged 16 and 17 — it's unclear if those are the same teens referred to by the Oregonian — who said through a translator that they were seated near the rear of the bus when it swerved a few times, hit the guardrail and flipped. They described breaking glass and seeing passengers pinned by their seats as the bus slid down the hill, and both said that they feared for their lives, AP says.
More than a dozen rescue workers descended the hill and used ropes to help retrieve people from the wreckage in freezing weather.
Lisa Johnson of CBC Vancouver reported early Monday that it was uncertain how many Canadians were on the bus.
Lt. Gregg Hastings of Oregon State Police told CBC although the highway was icy and snowy, the weather wasn't immediately being blamed for the crash, but police are still investigating.
The bus crashed along the west end of the Blue Mountains, and west of an area called Deadman Pass. The area is well known locally for its hazards, and the state transportation department advises truck drivers that "some of the most changeable and severe weather conditions in the Northwest" can lead to slick conditions and poor visibility.
Drivers are urged to use "extreme caution and defensive driving techniques," and are warned that snow and black ice are common in the fall through the spring.
St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton treated more than two dozen of the injured passengers, according to hospital spokesman Larry Blanc. Five of those treated at St. Anthony were transported to other facilities.
Blanc did not elaborate on the nature of the injuries.
Johnson reported that the hospital had to call in extra staff and more supplies to treat the injured.
A woman who answered the phone at a listing for the Vancouver bus company confirmed with The Associated Press that it owned the bus, and said it was on a tour of the Western U.S. She declined to give her name.
A bus safety website run by the U.S. Department of Transportation said Mi Joo Tour & Travel has six buses, none of which have been involved in any accidents in at least the past two years.
-- With files from the Associated Press
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