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The research centres website warns travellers to drive slow on the "logging road," which it says can be rough, but is usually well maintained. It also states that there is no cellphone service between Port Alberni and Bamfield.
Two University of Victoria students have died and three people are seriously injured following a bus rollover between Port Alberni and Bamfield on Vancouver Island Friday night, says the Royal Canadian Air Force.
On Saturday morning, Capt. David Burneau with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria said two passengers died on scene and another three with serious or critical injuries were airlifted to hospital in Victoria.
Two students killed after bus carrying University of Victoria students rolls over near Port Alberni
Burneau said the bus crashed on a gravel road near the Carmanah Main Junction, about 1.6 kilometres west of Francis Lake.
Denise Helm, the university's media relations director, said there were 45 UVic students and two teaching assistants on the bus. Helm said they were headed on two-day field trip to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.
B.C. Emergency Health Services said 17 people were taken to hospital — two people in critical condition, one person in serious condition, and 14 others in stable condition — and about another 30 were transported from the crash.
Burneau said some passengers were treated at a reception centre opened by Port Alberni, a city with fewer than 20,000 residents.
By Saturday afternoon, University of Victoria provost Valerie Kuehne said one student is still in hospital. Kuehne also said the university is offering support services for students, staff and families.
People were helping remove others from the bus and getting them up to the roadway, Dennis said, adding that he and his wife provided them with water and a rain poncho for warmth. He said he and his wife stayed at the scene to help in any way they could.
2 UVic students dead, 3 seriously injured in bus rollover near Port Alberni, B.C.
Earlier in the day the university said on Twitter it is "deeply saddened" by the death of the students.
Samantha Wilson of the Wilsons Group said the companys immediate concern is with the passengers, the driver and their families. Management is working with authorities and the University of Victoria to address those immediate concerns.
Barbara Hawkins, chair of the university's biology department, said the crash was a "terrible tragedy."
VIDEO: Port Alberni mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash
The Victoria-based company said details about the crash are still unclear and it is working with authorities and the University of Victoria to address concerns.
Chief Councillor Robert Dennis, with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations in Bamfield and the surrounding area, said he and his wife came across the crash about 30 minutes after it happened.
The bus was on its side nearly 10 metres down an embankment when he arrived, and students were pulling themselves up to the road with a rope.
He said the incident occurred on a dangerous narrow stretch of the road, noting that the First Nations community has been asking the provincial government for the road quality to be improved for years.
"It's frightening," Dennis said. "We in Bamfield have known for quite some time that the safety issue on that road is one of our prime concerns."
Dennis said the first couple who came across the accident would have had to drive 45 minutes before reaching paramedics by phone. He said it took two hours for ambulances to arrive.
The bus was overturned, he said, and about six to nine metres down an embankment. The bus rested against some trees, which seemed to have stopped it from rolling further down, said Dennis.
There is no cellphone service on that stretch of the road, which is the primary route people use to get in and out of the small community of Bamfield, Dennis said.
It had been raining on and off that night, he said, and conditions on the narrow, gravel logging road aren't great at the best of times.
Burneau also says the JRCC sent two Cormorant helicopters and one Buffalo search and rescue aircraft from 442 Squadron in Comox to help with the rescue effort.
Two UVic students killed in Vancouver Island bus rollover
"I've been knocking on every Liberal government, every NDP government, to get our road fixed," he said.
Air Force Capt. David Burneau says three people were airlifted to a hospital in Victoria with serious or critical injuries.
Port Alberni Chief Administrative Officer Tim Pley said the students on the bus who weren't injured were placed in hotels in Port Alberni for the night.
Sharie Minions, mayor of Port Alberni, said she is "really proud" of how city staff and others in the community stepped up to help.
They quickly opened an emergency centre, Minions said, and were able to feed the passengers and keep them warm. Later staff also helped the students get in touch with their families.
Earlier reports said the two passengers who died were airlifted to hospital, but Burneau later said it was the seriously injured passengers who were.
The JRCC deployed two helicopters and a search and rescue aircraft from Canadian Forces Base Comox to airlift patients from the scene.
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