Okanagan Connector bus crash was second in a week
Gord Vizzutti of Kelowna remembers the bus crash as if it happened yesterday and wonders who should be held responsible - especially in the wake of a more serious bus crash days later, resulting in the death of four people - connected to the same bus company.
On December 20, Vizzutti and his wife Patricia Rockwell decided to take a bus from Kelowna to Vancouver because flights were at a snow-storm standstill.
Vizzutti knew it was going to be an interesting ride as soon as the bus turned onto the Okanagan Connector (Highway 97C) where visibility, he said, dropped to white-out conditions.
"It was very unnerving, very disturbing, particularly when you're sitting in the front of the bus."
Vizzutti recalls how the bus came dangerously behind a slower pick-up truck.
"He (driver) had to swerve to miss it. There was an audible gasp from the people who could see that. And the driver said: 'Is everyone all right? And my wife said 'yes, but if you could slow down a bit.'"
Vizzutti said that his wife was so distressed that she texted her son: "I'm not sure we are going to make it."
Moments later, the bus hit the back of a semi, shattering the bus' window, sending glass into Rockwell's face and sending Rockwell to hospital.
"She was sitting right next to me. The front window imploded," Vizzutti said.
Vizzutti said doctors found a deep bruise in Rockwell's chest. "She was definitely bashed up and cut up."
"To be honest, we thought 'oh well, bad luck, we had an accident, we'll go to the hospital, get fixed up and that will be that,'" Vizzutti said.
But then Vizzutti heard about the four people killed on the same highway and realized that it was the same company — Ebus.
"Until I woke up Christmas morning and saw the news that 52 people were taken to hospital in another crash on the same road," Vizzutti said. "I thought, something needs to be looked at here."
Looking back, Vizzutti said that on his trip, and in hindsight of the most recent bus crash, he would have told the bus driver to slow down.
"I would have been more forceful and said please pull over at a brake-check and wait this out. It was white-out."
After the crash, "the fellow behind me said to the driver that 'you know that you were going too fast, buddy?'" Vizzutti said.
The bus company that Vizzutti purchased the ticket from is an affiliate of Ebus, the Calgary-based company that hires contractors.
"I suppose Ebus should have to answer to what their contractor was doing. They hired them. They should screen them. They should know that they are capable or at least know that (drivers) are experienced on the Coquihalla, which at the best of times is precarious."
iNFOnews reached out to Ebus with specifics on whether its drivers should have been travelling on the Connector despite an advisory to motorists to stay home, resulting in the deaths of four people, but calls were not returned. The company has only issued a public statement on the crash.
"I would like to extend our deepest condolences to families and loved ones so heavily impacted by this tragic event last night. Our thoughts and sympathy are with those injured and grieving at this time.We will continue cooperating with RCMP in their investigation and communicate information whenable. Thank you to the first responders, health care workers and everyone providing support," said Tom Jezersek, president of Ebus.
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