TORONTO (AP) — A bus carrying seniors to a casino collided with a semi-trailer truck at a highway intersection in a rural part of the Canadian province of Manitoba Thursday, killing 15 people and injuring 10 more, police said.
Rob Hill, Commanding Officer of the Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said the bus was carrying 25 people and authorities in Manitoba were deploying all their resources to the scene. Ten people were taken to hospitals.
TV broadcasters aired images of what looked like a large van or bus smoldering in a ditch near a transport truck with a smashed engine on a road. The pavement was littered with debris — broken glass, a large bumper and what looked like a walking aid. Seven blue and yellow tarps were stretched out.
RCMP Supt. Rob Lasson said “as of right now the drivers of both the bus and truck are alive and in hospital.” He did not say if they were among the 10 listed as injured. The dead were mainly seniors.
Lasson said the bus was heading south and there would have been a stop and yield sign. He said the bus was crossing the east bound lanes when it was struck by the truck that was going east, adding that who had the right of way is critical to the investigation.
“The public is reeling and asking a lot of questions and people are trying to determine if their loved ones were involved,” Lasson said. “Death on this scale is never normalized for us.”
The crash scene was in Carberry, a city 170 kilometers (105 miles) west of Manitoba’s capital of Winnipeg.
“The news from Carberry, Manitoba is incredibly tragic,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted. “I’m sending my deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones today, and I’m keeping the injured in my thoughts.”
A family support center has been set up at a Lutheran Church in Dauphin, Manitoba for relatives. Police said the people on the bus were from Dauphin and the areas around it.
Flags have been lowered to half-staff at the Manitoba legislature.
A spokesperson for the Sand Hills Casino in Carberry said the van had been scheduled to arrive there later in the day.
Kim Armstrong, the administrator of the Dauphin senior center, said the bus left from the senior center Thursday morning.
The senior community is extremely tight knit in the city of around 8,600 people and the center is sometimes like a second home, she said.
“It’s huge to lose so many individuals of our community and of course it is shocking. We just pray for those that are surviving,” she said.
Armstrong said seniors and community members often go on trips on buses to nearby events or casinos.
The truck company said in a statement it was heartbroken about the crash but had limited details about what happened.
“We will fully cooperate with the investigation and offer any assistance and support that we can,” said William Doherty, CEO of Day & Ross.
Nirmesh Vadera, who was working at a business on the side of the highway when the crash happened, said he went outside and saw a transport truck with a smashed engine on the highway. The bus was on fire in the grass on the side of the road. First responders were trying to get people out of the burning vehicle, he said.
“It was burning and all the (firefighters) and medical help and everybody was trying to get them away from the fire,” he said.
The crash brought back memories of the 2018 bus crash in the neighboring province of Saskatchewan that killed 16 people from the Humboldt Broncos minor league hockey team. Lasson said investigators in that crash are assisting.
“Sadly this is a day in Manitoba and across Canada that will be remembered as one of tragedy and incredible sadness,” said Hill, the RCMP commanding officer.