Survivor speaks after horrific tour bus crash
CTV British Columbia
Published Monday, December 31, 2012 5:19PM PST
Last Updated Monday, December 31, 2012 7:18PM PST
A Vancouver student says he feels lucky to be alive after being ejected from a bus during a horrific crash of a Vancouver-bound tour bus near Pendleton, Oregon.
Jaemin Seo, a 23-year-old international student living in Vancouver, was thrown from the bus through a broken window when it crashed.
"Some people were beside me but I thought one of them was already dead," Seo told CTV British Columbia. "I wanted to climb up to the road but I couldn't because I couldn't walk."
While Seo escaped with a fractured ankle, nine adults were killed in the crash and dozens of the 49 passengers were injured.
Seo said he could hear people screaming out following the crash.
"People screamed and yelled. Some mothers screamed to find their son or daughter," he said.
Many others were thrown out of the bus, while others remained pinned inside. The bus was travelling from Las Vegas along a treacherous stretch of a highway near Pendleton, when it skidded out of control.
“The bus collided with the left concrete barrier, the bus veered across both west bound lanes and struck a guard rail, where it came to rest,” said Gregg Hastings with the Oregon State Police, in a press conference Monday afternoon.
Survivors were sent to numerous hospitals around the region on Sunday night. By Monday, at least 10 were released from hospital.
An emergency rescue centre has been set up by Red Cross to receive patients upon release and connect them to family members. Rescuers are working to communicate with the survivors, but face a language barrier, as many of the victims were of Korean descent.
"The language barrier certainly makes it harder,” said Sandy Ramirez with the American Red Cross. “They are away from home, so I think that added an additional element of additional anxiety and discomfort."
Local resident Jacob Contor knows Korean and told CTV News he was able to help locate friends and family for people he thinks may be having a hard time
Contor said many of the survivors are concerned about friends in hospital, as well as about their possessions left on the bus, including passports. Police say they are working to locate possessions, as well as retrieve the bus, but have not yet been able bring the bus up from the bottom of the embankment.
The bus was operated by the Mi Joo Tour Company, based in Port Coquitlam. The bus driver, identified as 54-year-old Haeng Kyu Hwang from Vancouver, was injured but survived the crash.
The reason behind the crash is under investigation, but police have confirmed there were icy patches on the road. They say the investigation could take four to six weeks and will include a mechanical inspection.
Police in Oregon are working to release a list of names or those injured in the crash. B.C. Mounties are working with American authorities to notify the victims’ next of kin.
With files by CTV British Columbia’s Lisa Rossington and Scott Hurst