THE BC RCMP said on Tuesday that although the E-bus in the single vehicle collision on Highway 97C on Saturday (December 24) was equipped with seat belts, unfortunately, it appears the majority of passengers were not wearing them.
At this time, investigators believe the bus was occupied by 45 passengers and the driver. Investigators are attempting to confirm this number. The BC RCMP said they could confirm that four passengers were found deceased at scene.
It is believed that 22 passengers were transported to the Kelowna hospital, six to Penticton hospital and 13 to Merritt hospital. The four deceased were transported by the BC Coroners Service. No passengers were left at scene. The area around the collision was searched by first responders.
On December 24 at approximately 6:14 p.m., the BC Highway Patrol and Merritt RCMP were advised of a single vehicle collision around Loon Lake on Highway 97C east of Merritt.
Police and emergency services responded and located a commercial E-bus that had gone off road to the left and rolled onto its passenger side coming to rest in the eastbound lanes.
BC Highway Patrol investigators have learned that the E-bus was travelling west along Highway 97C from Kelowna towards Merritt when it encountered adverse road conditions. The E-bus went off road to the left, crossed the median and flipped onto its passenger side, coming to rest in the eastbound lanes.
Passers-by and local residents provided assistance by allowing passengers to warm up in their vehicles and providing blankets while emergency services arrived. All passengers were transported by BC Ambulance Service to local hospitals. There were no other vehicles involved in the collision.
The passengers were a mix of local and non-local people and foreign nationals. This was a regularly scheduled commercial bus trip from Kelowna to Vancouver.
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 and changing weather conditions. Rain and hail were falling. RCMP collision re-constructionists attended the scene.
This matter is still under active investigation. The E-bus remains in RCMP custody pending the investigation. The BC Highway Patrol is working with E-bus to return luggage and personal effects from the bus to the passengers.
If you witnessed the collision and have not spoken to investigators, or have dash-cam footage of the E-bus prior to the collision, or were a passenger that has not been identified and contacted by police, you are requested to contact Cpl. S. Audley by email at Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org.