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.
Burneau said the bus crashed on a gravel road near the Carmanah Main Junction, a few kilometres west of Francis Lake.
An employee who answered the phone Saturday declined to comment on the centres programs or why the students were travelling there, but according to its website it offers summer field courses, as well as a five-course fall semester program in marine sciences.
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 a 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.
Two killed after bus crashes taking university students to Bamfield
Burneau said some passengers were treated at a reception centre opened by Port Alberni, a city with fewer than 20,000 residents.
"Our immediate concern is with the passengers, the driver and their families," read the statement. "Management and ownership is working with authorities and the University of Victoria to address those immediate concerns."
Camylle Arsenault said she was supposed to be on the bus as part of the trip, but elected not to go at the last minute in favour of spending her weekend in Victoria. She said she was shocked when she heard about the accident.
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.
"I couldn't believe what had happened," she said. "I feel just horrible for the families."
Two UVic students killed in Vancouver Island bus rollover
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.
Earlier in the day the university said on Twitter it is "deeply saddened" by the death of the students.
The university has put in place measures to help those closest to these students deal with this trying situation. As a matter of privacy, the university will not be disclosing personal information about students
Barbara Hawkins, chair of the university's biology department, said the crash was a "terrible tragedy."
City of Port Alberni offers support 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.
We encourage students who need support on the weekend to contact Campus Security Services at 250-721-7599 for counselling services.
Wilson's Transportation is a charter bus company that serves Victoria and Vancouver Island, according to its website, and has been operating since 1962. It operates over 140 vehicles.
Wilsons has been transporting people safely throughout Vancouver Island for over 40 years and this is the first incident of this magnitude that we have ever experienced, Wilson said. We are all shocked by this. Rest assured that we are doing everything in our power to assist those affected.
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.
"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.
Any time that youth are involved it compounds the severity of the incident for responders from that aspect and the tragic outcome of the two individuals pronounced dead at the scene made this a really heartbreaking event for the responders, he said.
Wes Patterson, the deputy fire chief for the Port Alberni Fire Department, said people were still trapped in the bus when firefighters arrived.
John Wilson, president and CEO of Wilsons Group of Companies, said the company is deeply saddened by the tragedy. He said the driver, whom he described as experienced, sustained non-life threatening injuries and has been released from hospital.
"It was dark, it was rainy," he said. "The road is fairly rough, it's a gravel industrial road and so it takes a little bit more time to get out there."
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.
The chief councillor of the First Nations in Bamfield, B.C. says the narrow, winding gravel road where two University of Victoria students were killed Friday in a bus rollover has been a safety issue for decades.
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.
Narrow and winding stretches of the road reduce visibility, according to the chamber, and drivers are reminded that the logging trucks that travel the road seven days a week have the right of way.
"I've been knocking on every Liberal government, every NDP government, to get our road fixed," he said.
2 killed in bus rollover – BC News
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.
Sharie Minions, the mayor of Port Alberni, said she and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations wrote to Premier John Horgan recently asking for improvements to the road conditions.
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.
"It's a horrific accident," she said, adding that the city supports First Nation demands to have the road improved and better maintained.
Later Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted a message on Twitter offering his condolences to the victims and their families.
“It is with profound sadness and deep regret that I inform you that two students have passed away as a result of a bus crash mid-Island on the way to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre,” says the statement, written by University of Victoria President Jamie Cassels.
My thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the students whose lives were taken too soon in last night's bus crash on Vancouver Island – and Im wishing all those injured a full recovery.
Earlier reports said the two passengers who died were airlifted to hospital, but Burneau later said it was the seriously injured passengers who were.
Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, and search and rescue crews were all called to the scene of the crash. The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre said it sent two Cormorant helicopters and one Buffalo search and rescue aircraft.
The JRCC deployed two helicopters and a search and rescue aircraft from Canadian Forces Base Comox to airlift patients from the scene.
The provincial government said that Transport Canada and RCMP Vancouver Island Traffic Services are investigating the crash.
It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.