Police say 24 in hospital after highway bus crash in eastern Ontario

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PRESCOTT, Ont. — At least 24 people were in hospital, four with life-threatening injuries, after a bus crash in eastern Ontario, provincial police said Monday.

Const. Suzanne Runciman said the bus was carrying approximately 37 people, including the driver and a tour guide, when it went off the westbound lanes of Highway 401 and hit a rock cut.

Runciman said the crash took place between Brockville, Ont., and Prescott, Ont.

“My understanding is they are tourists, there was a tour guide with them,” Runciman said of those on board, adding that they were non-English speakers.

A manager at Massachusetts-based Union Tour Express said he had heard that one of their buses was involved in the collision, but did not have any further information.

A truck driver who passed by shortly after the crash said he could see passengers standing outside the bus holding bloody noses and some appeared to have facial injuries.

The bus was sitting in the ditch, up against some rocks, he said. A dash cam photo of the scene that he shared shows at least three ambulances and first responders, with about half a dozen people standing at the side of the road.

“It definitely looked very surreal and chaotic,” said the man who would only give his name as Robert. “OPP officers were assisting those who could get off the bus and to waiting ambulances. You could definitely see heavy damage to the front of the bus, including the passenger side of the front window.”

The Ornge air ambulance service said it was responding to the scene, which is about 95 kilometres south of Ottawa. Spokesman Joshua McNamara said at least one person was taken to Ottawa via air ambulance.

The Brockville General Hospital said it had received five patients who all required critical care and said one other patient was being sent to a hospital in Kingston, Ont., by air ambulance.

“All of the people that we have received are all Mandarin speaking,” said spokeswoman Abby McIntyre. “What I’ve been advised is that we have received five of the most critical.”

McIntyre said others injured in the crash are believed to be “walking wounded” who’ve been taken to other hospitals.

“Our teams are working hard with the folks that we’ve received and there’s all hands on deck for the moment,” she said. The hospital said it had a Mandarin translator on site to support the patients.

The Ottawa Hospital said on Twitter that it was working with regional hospitals and Ornge to treat the seriously injured who required transport to Ottawa.

The leaders of Ontario’s three main political parties, who are days away from a provincial election, all tweeted that their thoughts were with those affected by the crash.

The Canadian Press