Saturday December 24, 2022 | KELOWNA, BC [Updated 9:15 am Dec 25, 2022 | Updated 12:15 pm / Dec 25, 2022 / further updates at 3:45 pm Dec 25, 202; 1 pm December 27, 2022; and 3:50 pm December 28, 2022 | CLICK HERE for DEC 27 update from Interior Health and BC Ministry of Transportation]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
On this Christmas Eve, the Interior Health Authority has confirmed that 53 people are receiving care at three hospitals after a passenger bus crash along the Okanagan Connector (Highway 97C) Saturday night. [The number of patients to hospital was updated to 52, in a news release from Interior Health on Dec 25.] There were 47 passengers on the bus (plus the driver, for a total of 48 people), according to the bus company (Ebus). No specific word on the condition of the bus driver (who was the 48th person on the bus).
Four people died at the scene.
Reportedly, the westbound bus crossed the highway’s centre line and then rolled onto its side potentially into the path of oncoming eastbound traffic (but no other vehicles were impacted), near the Loon Lake exit. Some passengers exited the bus through roof hatches and waited at the snow-covered roadside. Snow was falling at the time of the incident. Incident investigators say the highway surface was extremely icy.
Hospitals in Kelowna (Kelowna General Hospital), Penticton (Penticton Regional Hospital) and Merritt (Nicola Valley Hospital) are working to triage those injured. Upon arrival, 36 patients were assessed and treated for injuries that ranged from serious to minor. As of 9:30 am on Christmas Day Dec 25, eight patients remained in the three hospitals (in Penticton, Kelowna and Kamloops). Two remain in serious condition, and two have non-life-threatening injuries. Four people have died.
Kelowna General Hospital declared a Code Orange after a passenger bus crash on the Okanagan Connector near Peachland at approximately 7:15 pm this evening. People at the incident later indicated the time of the crash being just after 6 pm.
On Christmas Day around noon, Interior Health issued a news release saying that “although the number of patients remaining in hospital is low, this is a life-altering incident for all involved, from the initial physical injuries to the emotional and spiritual impacts of an incident such as this”.
“We are not in a position to provide patient conditions at this time,” a statement from Interior Health read late on Christmas Eve. “We will make every effort to connect families with patients as soon as possible.” It remains unclear the degree of injuries.
Winter road conditions:
The cause of the crash incident has not yet been released. However, recent snow conditions have left highways and other roads in a state of requiring the utmost care in driving.
- As of 3:52 pm on DriveBC there was a posting called ‘Normal’ for Highway 97C: “Watch for slippery sections between Merritt and the end of Highway 97C for 105.2 km. Compact snow.”
- As of 8:12 pm on DriveBC there was also a posting called ‘Normal’ for Highway 97C: “Blowing snow between Junction Hwy 97 and Pennask Summit for 33.0 km (West Kelowna to Pennask Summit). Watch for slippery sections. Compact snow.”
The Okanagan Connector bisects the Coquihalla Highway at Merritt.
Reportedly there was a closure of the highway following bus incident [highway re-opened on Christmas morning. Dec 25].
Statement from Premier:
The following statement about the bus accident in the Okanagan was released around 9:50 pm this evening by Premier David Eby; Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth; Health Minister Adrian Dix; and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming.
“On this Christmas Eve we are shocked and saddened to hear of the serious bus accident on the Highway 97C Okanagan Connector between Merritt and Kelowna. Our thoughts are with those impacted by the crash, their loved ones, and the first responders and health-care workers giving their all to treat people and keep them safe.”
Statement from Health Minister:
Health Minister Adrian Dix posted on Twitter on Christmas Day: “Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by the accident on Hwy 97C last night, especially the loved ones of the four people who tragically died.”
Comments from Interior Health:
“Our thoughts are with the families and patients, as well as the many first responders at the scene, who were impacted by this tragic accident.”
“Our deep gratitude to the many Interior Health staff and physicians already working or who came in to the hospitals to help care for the high number of patients who needed immediate care.”
Updates on Christmas Day:
As seen in TV news coverage on December 25, there were still cell phones and wallets left on the snowy road at the scene of the Christmas Eve accident.
All notes in blue highlights (above) are updates posted on Christmas Day December 25, as more information continues to become available.
The Alberta-owned MyEbus company (the motto of which is “safely home”) said in a statement to media on December 25 that they are grateful for the first responders and are cooperating with the RCMP.
Reportedly several of the people on the bus had been stranded by cancelled air travel, and were heading to Vancouver on Christmas Eve, to see family or friends for Christmas.
Update on Boxing Day:
The Ebus operator says services on their British Columbia routes are to resume on Tuesday December 27.
Michaela Swan, media spokesperson for Island Health, said seven people who were brought to three hospitals on Saturday evening (as a result of the bus rollover) are still patients, down from eight on Sunday.
All seven have non-life threatening issues, after two patients previously listed as having serious conditions improved, Swan said on December 26.
ARCHIVE: TRAVEL & TRANSPORTATION
Premier Eby’s Christmas 2022 statement (Dec 24, 2022)
Two urgent primary care clinics open on Xmas Day in Greater Victoria (Dec 23, 2022)
Drivers asked to avoid travel during snow-rain episode (Dec 23, 2022)
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is a professional news service that covers news of the west shore, south Vancouver Island, BC and national issues.
Island Social Trends launched entirely online at islandsocialtrends.ca in mid-2020, in the footsteps of its predecessor publications MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013) and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).
Editor and publisher: Mary P Brooke