Students in critical condition after school bus crash near Smoky Lake, Alta.

Alex Tardieu/CBC News

Eight people are in hospital in Edmonton, including five students who are in critical condition, after a collision between a school bus and truck-mounted crane on Monday near Smoky Lake, Alta.

Fourteen students were on the bus when the accident happened around 8:30 a.m. MT, police said. A total of one adult and seven students were taken to hospital in Edmonton.

The bus was northbound on Range Road 180 and the other vehicle was westbound on Highway 28, about five kilometres west of the town. 

"There was lots of blood around and a lot of hurt people," said local official Adam Kozakiewicz, who witnessed the crash, which he narrowly avoided, while on his way to work. 

He provided a couple of blankets to the cold, frightened students. He said he heard screams, moaning and students talking about their heads hurting.

"I phoned 911 and tried to help everybody there," he said. 

A teenage girl was flown directly to the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton in critical condition, according to STARS air ambulance. 

STARS also flew a physician from Edmonton to the help with triage at the Smoky Lake health-care centre, and brought two male students back to the Stollery — one adolescent and one child — it said.

'The fear of every parent'

Five patients — four youngsters and an adult — were taken by ground ambulance to Edmonton. Two were in critical condition, two were serious but stable and one was in stable condition, according to a statement from Alberta Health Services (AHS). 

The students were on their way to H.A. Kostash School, a kindergarten to Grade 12 school in Smoky Lake, according to a spokesperson for Aspen View Public Schools.

Two people were in the mobile crane, according to Cpl. Ron Bumbry, RCMP media relations officer. The driver suffered minor injuries and was taken to Redwater Health Centre, about 50 kilometres west of Smoky Lake, AHS said. 

The passenger did not suffer any "major injuries," Bumbry added.

An investigation is underway, the RCMP said. 

The intersection had stop signs on Range Road 180 where it met the larger highway, Bumbry said. 

"It was a controlled intersection where Highway 28 goes through direct," he told reporters. "The school bus was driving and had a stop sign and did appear to stop at the stop sign and then attempted to cross." 

RCMP said Redwater Victim Services is also assisting.

"An incident of this nature is the fear of every parent in rural Alberta who puts their child on a school bus each morning," Candyce Nikipelo, chairwoman of the school division's board of trustees said in a statement.

"The hearts of families throughout Aspen View and rural Alberta go out to those involved."

Smoky Lake is a community of some 960 people, about 115 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.