2 UVic students dead, 1 still in hospital after bus rollover near Port Alberni, B.C. – CBC News

2 UVic students dead, 1 still in hospital after bus rollover near Port Alberni, B.C. - CBC News
Two students dead, several seriously injured in Vancouver Island bus rollover
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. 

2 university students dead, 17 hurt following bus rollover on Vancouver Island

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.

Two students killed after bus carrying University of Victoria students rolls over near Port Alberni

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. 

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.

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.

The road is more than 80 kilometres long and mostly gravel, said Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions. It was once mostly heavily used by logging companies, she said, but now its also frequented by tourists and people living in coastal communities.

Burneau said some passengers were treated at a reception centre opened by Port Alberni, a city with fewer than 20,000 residents. On Saturday, the students were taken back to Victoria on another bus.

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.

We are deeply saddened by the death of two University of Victoria students last night,” Cassels said. “Our heartfelt thoughts go out to the students families and loved ones, to whom we offer our sincerest condolences. We also thinking of those injured in the crash.”

"I couldn't believe what had happened," she said. "I feel just horrible for the families."

BCEHS and partner agencies responded to a call at 9:45pm last night for a bus down an embankment near Bamfield. 17 patients taken to hospital, including 2 in critical, 1 in serious and 14 others stable condition. Approx 30 more transported from the scene by bus.

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.

“Our immediate concern is with the passengers, the driver and their families,” the company said. “Management and ownership is working with authorities and the University of Victoria to address those immediate concerns.”

Earlier in the day the university said on Twitter it is "deeply saddened" by the death of the students. 

BC Emergency Health Services (EHS) said paramedics responded around 9:45 p.m. and transported 17 patients to hospital, including two in critical condition and one in serious condition. The rest are said to be in stable condition.

Barbara Hawkins, chair of the university's biology department, said the crash was a "terrible tragedy."

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.

It issued a written statement confirming that one of its buses was involved and later held a news conference.

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. It also hosts students on field trips.

2 UVic students dead, several seriously injured in Vancouver Island bus rollover

Owner John Wilson said the driver was experienced and had driver training certification. Wilson said the driver sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was released from hospital.

Jennifer Dawn said her daughter was supposed to be on the trip but opted not to go. She said her heart is broken for the students and their families. Ive taken my kids to Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre and weve camped in Pachena numerous times, she wrote in a social media post.

"We do not know what caused the incident at this time, we are co-operating fully and working with the RCMP and all those involved to help in whatever way we can," he said.

Janelle Shoihet, senior media relations officer for the RCMP in B.C., said police received a distress call from a remote location between Port Alberni and Bamfield just before 9:30 p.m. Friday. The call came from a satellite device registered to the University of Victoria.

Wilson also said the bus — a 2001 Prevost XL 2 — had recently passed a safety inspection and was equipped with seatbelts.

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. 

“This is the first incident of this magnitude that we have ever experienced. We are all shocked by this,” the company said. “Rest assured that we are doing everything in our power to assist those affected.”

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.

Other shuttle services, including the Alberni Island Shuttle and Pachena Bay Express, are also listed on the centre’s website as providing service. Global News has reached out to both for comment.

VIDEO: Two killed on Vancouver Island after bus crashes carrying university students

Wes Patterson, the deputy fire chief for the Port Alberni Fire Department, said people were still trapped in the bus when firefighters arrived.

“The students were so brave, they weren’t scared or panicking,” said Cathryn Van Kessel, one of the teachers who survived the ordeal. “Everyone was calm.”

"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."

“I’m incredibly saddened that it had to come to this. But, at the end of the day, we don’t want to see it happen again,” she says. “The road is heavily utilized by large trucks, tourists and residents of the southern Barclay Sound area. The City and other coastal communities have been calling for safety improvements to Bamfield Road and they will continue to push for these improvements in the weeks and months ahead.

Two university students killed in bus crash near Port Alberni

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.

Two University of Victoria students were killed in the crash after the bus they were riding in rolled over on a narrow stretch of gravel road and plunged into a ravine Friday night. More than a dozen others were injured. Forty-seven people were on the bus, which was on its way to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre when it rolled over around 10 p.m.

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.

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"I've been knocking on every Liberal government, every NDP government, to get our road fixed," he said. 

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.

Robert Dennis, Chief Councillor of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, witnessed the aftermath of Friday’s crash. He and his wife helped the passengers with water and lighting while another couple drove to nearby Pachena Bay to call 911.

Sharie Minions, mayor of Port Alberni, said she is "really proud" of how city staff and others in the community stepped up to help. 

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.

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.

A bus carrying 48 people went off the road and down a steep embankment about 9 p.m. The passengers — 45 University of Victoria students in a first-year science class and two teaching assistants — were bound for the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

"It's a horrific accident," she said, adding that the city supports First Nation demands to have the road improved and better maintained.

The road is more than 80 kilometres long and mostly gravel, said Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions. It was once mostly heavily used by logging companies, she said, but now its also frequented by tourists and people living in coastal communities.

Later Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted a message on Twitter offering his condolences to the victims and their families.

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.

He said the First Nations community has been asking the provincial government for years to improve the road. They would like to see it chipsealed, which Dennis said would be a better pavement surface.

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. 

The provincial government said that Transport Canada and RCMP Vancouver Island Traffic Services are investigating the crash.

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