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B.C. government says upgrades to highway where bus crashed are 'critical'

Hoffman's Bluff near Chase is pictured in this contributed Government of B.C. photo.
Image Credit: Ministry of Transportation
August 02, 2015 - 9:30 AM

CHASE - British Columbia's transportation ministry says it has moved aggressively to widen a dangerous stretch of highway where a tour bus crash killed one man and sent dozens to hospital on Friday.

The head-on collision between a car and a private charter bus filled with Korean tourists happened, July 31, in a winding, rock-faced area known as Hoffman's Bluff, just south of Chase in the Shuswap.

The two-lane stretch is notorious for collisions and the province announced earlier this year it would be upgraded to four lanes to improve safety.

"The four-laning improvements that are underway at Hoffman's Bluff where this accident took place are absolutely critical and will be completed as soon as possible," said transportation ministry spokeswoman Kate Trotter on Saturday.

Trotter also promised that all serious incidents involving tour buses will be involved in a recently-announced safety review of the industry. The accident is the third to involve a tour bus in the past year.

"We want to make sure this industry is operating as safely as possible for bus passengers and anyone else on the road," she said. "We expect this review will be completed early in 2016."

RCMP said a black Chevrolet Cavalier travelling westbound on the highway crossed over the centre line just after 4 p.m. and collided with an eastbound charter bus with 57 people on board including the driver.

The man driving the car died in the crash and first responders had to extract him from the wreckage.

"The most serious injury on the bus was to the driver who was transported to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops with non-life-threatening injuries," said Sgt. Mike Pears in a news release.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation. Alcohol is not believed to be a factor.

Local health officials said only one person was held in hospital overnight for observation and was released Saturday morning. Karl Hardt, a spokesman for Interior Health, an agency responsible for hospitals in the area, said he could not comment on the individual's condition or injuries.

Of the remaining 56 who were rushed to hospital and were released late Friday night, 20 suffered minor injuries and 36 were not injured, Hardt said.

He said the hospital was well-prepared for the influx of patients and wound up not having to declare what it calls a "code orange."

"It was definitely a busy night, but everyone pulled together," said Hardt. "We do have plans in place and I think everything went fairly well."

A woman who identified herself as a representative of Wescan Charter Bus Lines said the company sent another driver and bus to take passengers out of the area.

The woman, who declined to give her name, said the injured bus driver had returned home to Vancouver and was recovering safely.

"We don't know exactly what happened," she said. "The good thing for us is all the passengers don't have big injuries. Basically, no one got hurt. Even the driver was released."

Meantime the provincial and federal governments announced on Saturday $35 million in upgrades to a separate piece of Highway 1, between Revelstoke and Golden, that is also known for deadly collisions.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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