The investigation into the deadly crash is active and ongoing, according to a Tuesday RCMP media release. BC Highway Patrol is working with Ebus to return luggage and personal effects from the bus to the passengers.
To date, investigators have determined the bus went off-road to the left, crossed the median and flipped onto its passenger side coming to rest in the eastbound lanes.
“Passers-by and local residents provided assistance by allowing passengers to warm up in their vehicles and providing blankets while emergency services arrived. All passengers were transported by BC Ambulance Service to local hospitals,” RCMP said in the release.
“The Ebus was equipped with seat belts, (but) unfortunately, it appears the majority of passengers were not wearing them. The passengers were a mix of local, non-local and foreign nationals. This was a regularly scheduled commercial bus trip from Kelowna to Vancouver.”
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While there have been conflicting accounts of how many people were on the bus and how many were treated in area hospitals, RCMP were also able to offer a clearer picture of the casualties of the crash.
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At this time investigators believe the bus was occupied by 45 passengers and the driver.
Four passengers died at the scene and currently it is believed that 22 passengers were transported to Kelowna’s hospital, six to Penticton’s hospital and 13 to Merritt’s hospital. The four people who died were transported by the BC Coroners Service. No passengers were left at scene.
Road conditions continue to be scrutinized in the aftermath of the crash.
RCMP said they “were fluid, transitioning from clear wet roads to frozen with ice and snow on the road surface due to the time of day (sun setting) and changing weather conditions.”
Rain and hail had just started to fall.
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said in a Tuesday press conference that since a commercial vehicle was involved, the Ministry of Transportation’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement team is also conducting a post-crash investigation.
“What we do know is that our maintenance contractors were out all day on Saturday with seven pieces of equipment along the Connector, plowing sanding and salting the highway,” Fleming said.
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“The winter conditions on Highway 97 seen on Saturday, were not unusual for late December or for high mountain passes. And nearby weather station indicated low precipitation for most of the day in that region.”
He added that road conditions observed at the crash site immediately following the incidents were within the specification set by the ministry for winter road maintenance.
He said there were signs posting updates on road conditions and no other vehicle incidents were reported or observed on the connector that day.
Anyone who witnessed the collision and has not spoken to investigators, or has dash-cam footage of the Ebus prior to the collision, or was a passenger that has not been identified and contacted by police, are asked to contact Cpl. S. Audley via email at: Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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