Okanagan Connector up to standard at time of deadly bus crash: transportation minister | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Okanagan Connector up to standard at time of deadly bus crash: transportation minister

Minister of Highways and Infrastructure, Rob Fleming.
Image Credit: Flickr/B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

Highways maintenance crews were doing their job up to standard when an E-bus crashed on the Okanagan Connector, killing four and injuring dozens of others on Christmas Eve.

“We do know maintenance contractors were out all day on Saturday with seven pieces of equipment along the Connector plowing, sanding and salting the highway,” Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming said at a news briefing today, Dec. 27. “The winter conditions on Highway 97C on Saturday were not unusual for late December or high mountain passes.”

Crews tasked with monitoring snowfall reported there wasn't much precipitation that day and the maintenance contractor met Ministry standards, the minister said.

There were traffic advisories issued and most people seemed to be obeying them since traffic was lighter than expected that day, Fleming said.

“The reduced congestion of passenger vehicles is a good thing,” he said. “A lot of people have small light vehicles without proper tires that really don’t cope well with winter road conditions. Commercial vehicles involving goods movement in the trucking sector, transporting people through the passenger coach industry, are prepared for winter conditions.”

A thorough investigation will be conducted to determine what happened that day and report back when that investigation is done, he added.

Initial reports said that 53 people were injured and taken to hospitals but that was revised today. There were 45 passengers and a driver on the bus, according to a B.C. Highway Patrol press release.

Of those, 22 passengers were transported to Kelowna General Hospital, six to Penticton and 13 to Merritt.

“Passers-by and local residents provided assistance by allowing passengers to warm up in their vehicles and providing blankets while emergency services arrived,” the RCMP press release says.

The bus was heading towards Merritt when it crossed the median near the Loon Lake exit, flipped onto its passenger side and came to a rest in the eastbound lane. The bus was equipped with seat belts but, it appears, most passengers were not wearing them.

The passengers were a mix of local, non-local and foreign nationals, according to RCMP.

“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,” the news release says. “Rain and hail was falling.”

Eight people were kept in hospital but one had been released as of late yesterday. Two were listed as being in series condition but have since improved.

No other vehicles were involved in that accident, Fleming said, and there were no other accidents reported in the area that day.

READ MOREInterior Health says remaining patients from deadly B.C. bus crash expected to live

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