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Nine killed as bus owned by Vancouver tour agency crashes in Oregon

Oregon tour bus crash

Tim Trainor/The Associated Press Emergency personnel respond to the scene of an accident where a tour bus burst through a guardrail along an icy Oregon highway and several hundred feet down a steep embankment, authorities said.

PENDLETON, ORE.—A tour bus owned by a Vancouver company bound for British Columbia crashed through a guardrail along an icy Oregon highway and slid several hundred feet down a steep embankment Sunday, killing nine people and injuring more than 20 others, authorities said.

The charter bus, which was carrying about 40 people, lost control around 10:30 a.m. on the snow- and ice-covered lanes of Interstate 84, according to the Oregon State Police. It came to rest at the bottom of a snowy slope.

More than a dozen rescue workers descended the slope and used ropes to help retrieve people from the wreckage in freezing weather.

The bus driver was among the survivors but had not yet spoken to police owing to severe injuries.

Lt. Greg Hastings said the bus crashed along the west end of the Blue Mountains, west of an area called Deadman Pass. Stretches of highway in east Oregon tend to be icy in winter months.

The bus slid down the hill and landed upright, with little or no debris visible around the crash site.

St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton treated 26 people from the accident, including some who were treated and then transported to other medical facilities, said hospital spokesman Larry Blanc.

I-84 is a major east-west highway through Oregon that follows the Columbia River Gorge.

Umatilla County Emergency Manager Jack Remillard said the bus was owned by Mi Joo Tour & Travel in Vancouver. State police said the bus was en route from Las Vegas to Vancouver.

A woman who answered the phone at a listing for the company confirmed for The Associated Press that it owned the bus and said it was on a tour of the Western U.S. She declined to give her name.

A bus safety website run by the U.S. Department of Transportation said Mi Joo Tour & Travel has six buses, none of which have been involved in any accidents in at least the past two years.

RCMP in British Columbia have been asked to help notify the relatives of the people on the bus. Cpl. Peter Thiessen would only say the Mounties have been asked to contact next of kin in B.C.’s lower mainland and beyond. He declined to answer questions about the nationality of the people involved.

A spokesman for the American Bus Association said buses carry more than 700 million passengers a year in the United States.

“The industry as a whole is a very safe industry,” said Dan Ronan of the Washington, D.C.,-based group. “There are only a handful of accidents every year. Comparatively speaking, we’re the safest form of surface transportation.” – News