First responders praised following school bus crash in B.C.'s Cariboo region

The bus crash is still being investigated, officials said. (Robert Moberg - image credit)
The bus crash is still being investigated, officials said. (Robert Moberg - image credit)

The swift response to the school bus crash in B.C.'s Cariboo region, which left about 36 people injured on Friday, was crucial in ensuring the safety of those involved, according to a fire chief who was on the scene.

"So extremely proud of the volunteer fire departments and the firefighters [who] attended and our other partner agencies," said Roger Hollander, the Cariboo Regional District fire chief.

Seven people were airlifted to the hospital and seven were sent in ambulances. Shortly after that collision, police say a pedestrian was struck and killed in a separate crash. The B.C. RCMP declined to give any information about the deceased on Saturday.

According to the RCMP, the bus went off the road and down an embankment after travelling on Highway 97 north of 100 Mile House, which is about 455 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

The cause of the bus crash is still being investigated, officials said.

Students on the bus were in grades 6 and 7 from 100 Mile Elementary and Horse Lake Elementary, on the way home from a field trip to Gavin Lake.
Students on the bus were in grades 6 and 7 from 100 Mile Elementary and Horse Lake Elementary, on the way home from a field trip to Gavin Lake.

About 36 people were injured in a school bus accident on Friday, north of 100 Mile House, which is about 455 kilometres northeast of Vancouver. The Grade 6 and 7 students from 100 Mile Elementary and Horse Lake Elementary who were on the bus were returning from a field trip. (Robert Moberg)

Cpl. Brett Urano, an RCMP media relations officer, confirmed the bus accident was followed by a second incident, in which a person was struck by a vehicle at the same location.

Despite the life-saving efforts of first responders, the person died, he said.

Rescue efforts

The Grade 6 and 7 students from 100 Mile Elementary and Horse Lake Elementary who were on the bus were returning from a field trip to Gavin Lake, about 90 kilometres northwest of 100 Mile House, according to Chris van der Mark, the superintendent of the Cariboo-Chilcotin School District.

Nearly 40 of the students and four adults onboard, including a driver and teachers were "extricated" from the site of the accident, fire Chief Hollander said.

"Many of those students were self-extricated," he said. "They removed themselves, and were assisted by passersby and other witnesses."

However, when fire crews responded to the scene, they found the driver and one student needed to be extricated after being trapped inside the bus.

Thanks to a co-ordinated response from 100 Mile House Fire Rescue, RCMP and volunteer firefighters, both individuals were successfully rescued, Hollander said.

Van der Mark said the school district plans to support the children and families who were involved.

"I think everybody's pretty relieved that the scope of the injuries in terms of some broken bones, sprains and some concussions is probably not good, certainly, [but] certainly better than people were hearing," van der Mark said.

"I can't express enough appreciation to our staff who were not only on the bus, but for those who were close by," he said, noting they quickly joined the first responders.

Firefighter's own child among those hurt

One of the children on the bus was identified as a firefighter's child, Hollander said.

"This volunteer [firefighter] had to be tough, obviously both physically and emotionally to be able to concentrate, assisting with the rest of the children," the fire chief said, speaking about the firefighter who had to rescue his own child and others.

"It just shows you the commitment and the level of dedication that the fire department members have, especially as volunteers."

The fire chief confirmed that the volunteer firefighter's child was airlifted to a hospital and is recovering.

B.C. Emergency Health Services said 11 ambulances and seven air ambulances were sent to the scene.