Tuesday December 27, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated December 28, 2022]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
A bus that rolled over on Highway 97C in the BC Interior on the night of Christmas Eve (Saturday December 24), at first sent a reported 52 people to hospital, which turned out to be 48 (47 passengers and bus driver), as four people died at the scene of the crash. [See our full bus crash cumulative news report Dec 24 to 26.]
Reportedly, only some bus passengers had been wearing seat belts.
By the next day, it was originally reported that eight remained in hospital with non life-threatening injuries. Then it was confirmed on Boxing Day (Monday December 26) by Interior Health that seven people who were brought to three hospitals on Saturday evening.
As of today, Tuesday December 27, six patients remain in hospital with non life-threatening injuries, says director of communications and engagement for Interior Health North, Michaela Swan. She adds that one was discharged.
On the night of the accident, four people died at the scene during the bus rollover incident.
Staffing levels throughout Christmas have been stable, says Interior Health.
“During the code orange response Interior Health did call in additional staff to support a response, and some staff and physicians just showed up without even being asked,” said Swan in a statement to Island Social Trends today.
“In these times of crisis, I am so grateful for our front line health care workers who always answer the call in order to meet the needs of patients. It is truly remarkable,” she told Island Social Trends.
At first, patients reportedly were taken by first responders to hospitals in Kelowna, Penticton and Merritt. The next day, the hospital in Kamloops was also involved.
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”.
“Patients have been in contact with their families,” said Interior Health today.
Provincial statement Dec 27:
At 2 pm, the minister of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), Minister Rob Fleming, addressed media. He was accompanied by MOTI staff as well as staff from the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, along with staff from the River Forecast Centre.
Fleming confirmed that the RCMP and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement Team are investigating the fatal bus crash on the Highway 97C Okanagan Connector (which runs between Kelowna and Merritt). He adds that no other vehicle incidents reported on that stretch of highway on Christmas Eve.
“Road conditions observed immediately following the incident were within the specification set by the ministry for winter road maintenance,” Fleming said.
Today Fleming mentioned several times Drive BC had issued warnings earlier in the day urging drivers to drive with caution or to avoid the road.
“The advisories we gave were to think about travel and whether it was necessary or not, and obviously the reduced congestion of passenger vehicles is a good thing where possible a lot of people have small light vehicles without proper tires that really don’t cope well with winter road conditions,” Fleming said.
“Commercial vehicles involved in goods movement in the trucking sector, transporting people through the passenger coach industry are prepared for winter conditions. The advisory was to warn about the road conditions which were winter conditions, and I think there will be some parts of your question that are definitely part of the investigation into this tragic crash.”
BC RCMP released a statement saying the bus was the only vehicle involved in the fatal crash.
“The E-bus went off road left, crossed the median and flipped onto its passenger side coming to rest in the eastbound lanes,” the RCMP statement says.
“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 says while the bus was equipped with seat belts, 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,” the statement says. “The road conditions 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 was falling.”
RCMP continues to investigate, and is working with E-bus to return luggage on board the bus to passengers. The bus remains in RCMP custody.
Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to contact Cpl Samantha Audley by email at email@example.com .
Bus service running again:
The Ebus operator said yesterday that services on their British Columbia routes were to resume today December 27.
In their December 25 news release, BC RCMP said the bus driver was cooperating with police.
Learning about some of the passengers:
Reportedly a cousin of one of the four people who died identified one of the victims as Karanjot Singh Sodhi, 41 (father of a six-year-old son and two-year-old daughter in India). Sodhi came to Canada about three months ago and was a long-haul trucker who was taking the bus to meet up with family for the holidays.
More to come.
Christmas Eve bus crash on Highway 97C in BC Interior (Dec 24 to 27, 2022)
Premier Eby’s Christmas 2022 statement (Dec 24, 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