Foreign tourists describe icy US bus crash
Updated: 2013-01-02 07:45
Survivors of a bus crash that killed nine people on a partly icy section of interstate in rural Eastern Oregon said on Monday that some passengers were thrown from the vehicle through broken windows after it skidded out of control, smashed through a guardrail and plummeted 60 meters down an embankment.
When the tour bus came to a rest, terrified passengers, most of them Koreans, looked around for their loved ones.
"Some mothers screamed to find their son or daughter," said Jaemin Seo, a 23-year-old exchange student from Suwon, South Korea, who is studying in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The charter bus, owned by a Canadian company, crashed on Sunday just east of Pendleton while returning to Canada from Las Vegas - one of the stops on a nine-day western US tour.
Aboard were 48 people, some of them exchange students from South Korea. Some passengers were from British Columbia, and some from the US state of Washington. Investigators said there also may have been a Japanese passenger and one from the Chinese island of Taiwan.
The survivors, who range in age from 7 to 74, were sent to 10 hospitals in Oregon, Washington state and Idaho. At least 10 were released on Monday, police said.
The crash occurred near a spot on the interstate called Deadman Pass, at the top of a steep, 11-km descent from the Blue Mountains. That section of road is so notorious that state transportation officials published a warning for truck drivers saying it has "some of the most changeable and severe weather conditions in the Northwest".
But a state transportation spokesman said that while there were icy spots where the crash occurred, it was nothing unusual for this time of year.
He said a sanding truck had applied sand a few hours earlier and was behind the bus making another run when the crash occurred. The sand truck driver was among the first at the scene, adding that the highway has been shut down several times this winter, mostly due to crashed trucks blocking the roadway.
Seo said he was awakened by screaming and was ejected from a broken window as the bus careened down the hill. Seo had a broken ankle, a gash in his arm that required stitches and shallow scratches across his face.