Six air ambulance helicopters and 19 ground ambulances including paramedics from Barriere were sent to the scene of the Coquihalla bus crash.

Six air ambulance helicopters and 19 ground ambulances including paramedics from Barriere were sent to the scene of the Coquihalla bus crash.

Critically injured passengers taken to Kamloops hospital following bus crash

Thursday, Aug. 28, tour-bus crash on the Coquihalla Highway

Kamloops This Week

Of the 43 patients originally transported to area hospitals following the Thursday, Aug. 28, tour-bus crash on the Coquihalla Highway, 22 remain in health-care facilities.

Merritt RCMP say the tour bus was travelling south of the Coquihalla Highway, on its way to Vancouver from the Okanagan, when it crashed about 30 kilometres south of the Nicola Valley town at about 3 p.m. on the highway.

The bus, carrying mainly tourists from Asia and heading to Vancouver,  was passing a truck when the bus driver apparently lost control.

The bus left the highway, flipped on its side, skidded along the median and returned to upright status.

Nineteen ambulances and six helicopters transported patients to Royal Inland Hospital, Kelowna General Hospital and the Nicola Valley Hospital Centre in Merritt.

Of the 22 patients still in care, eight are at Royal Inland and 14 are at Kelowna General.

Three are in critical condition, two are in serious condition and 17 have non-life threatening injuries.

Other patients injured in the accident are receiving treatment in Lower Mainland hospitals.

A hotline for family members only has been established.

Family members seeking information can call  1-888-350-6070.

Operators are available in English and Mandarin.

Interior Health Authority spokeswoman Michaela Swan said the crash was “unprecedented” for area hospitals.

“What happened was truly a tragic incident and we understand there are families around the world waiting to hear about their loved ones,” Swan said.

She said the IHA’s three hospitals were all on code orange — meaning all hands on deck for mass-casualty incidents — for the first time ever.

“We’ve spent a lot of time planning and preparing for code orange,” Swan said.

“We always hope for the best, but we have to plan for the worst.”

Earlier on Friday, RCMP said a dash-mounted camera on a semi captured a video of the crash and that speed and weather are not thought to have been factors.

RCMP Sgt. Brian Nightingale said the dash-cam footage, captured by a truck travelling behind the bus, indicates human error or mechanical failure as possible causes.

“It’s more an issue that the driver drove into the centre median and then veered too hard trying to get onto the road,’’ Nightingale said.

“We’re doing mechanical [inspections] on the bus, so that will rule out any kind of mechanical factors, like steering and braking and that kind of stuff.’’

The passengers were on a tour organized by Super Vacation, a company based in Richmond that describes itself as the largest Chinese tour operator in North America.

The company has said the bus was returning to Vancouver from a trip to the Rocky Mountains and was between Kamloops and Vancouver when it rolled over.

Company spokesman L. Lau said many of the passengers are from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, though he said some are from B.C. and elsewhere in Canada.

“We have been planning for everything right now,’’ said Lau, who declined to give his full name.

“Of course, some of the patients we can’t see.’’

Lau said the bus was operated by Western Bus Lines, which he said is a “major local bus company with 35 years of experience.’’

Western Bus Lines, based in Kelowna, did not reply to repeated voice messages and emails.