Driver of bus that crashed into N.S. river involved in similar crash last year

Staff ~ The Truro Daily News
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MONASTERY, N.S. - The driver of a bus that veered off a bridge and plunged into a river in rural Nova Scotia on Saturday was the same man behind the wheel of another intercity bus involved in an eerily similar crash last year.
Driver Ken Mitchell, a longtime employee of Acadian Lines, was among five people sent to hospital Saturday after his bus smashed through a bridge guardrail and fell almost eight metres to the ice-choked Tracadie River near Monastery.
Luckily, everyone aboard escaped - some with the help of emergency crews - as the bus remained on its side, only partially submerged in the frigid water.
One of the five passengers escaped unharmed and required no treatment, the RCMP said.
"Given where they landed, it's miraculous that they survived at all," RCMP Cpl. Phil Reddy told CTV.
Denise Sirois, product manager for the Montreal-based bus line, confirmed Sunday that Mitchell was driving an Acadian bus in Cape Breton on Feb. 3, 2009 when it skidded on ice, pitched over a bridge and landed wheels-up in the Baddeck River.
One of the five passengers aboard that night suffered back injuries. Investigators later determined that poor road conditions contributed to the spectacular crash, Sirois said.
Witnesses at the scene of Saturday's accident said the Trans-Canada Highway in northeastern Nova Scotia was covered in snow and high winds were creating whiteout conditions.
Mitchell and one passenger remained in hospital Sunday, said Sirois.
"I don't have any details on the extent of his injuries," she said in an interview from Montreal.
RCMP spokeswoman Sgt. Brigdit Leger said the driver was the most seriously injured, though she couldn't comment on the specific condition of anyone else.
"However, at this point in time, none are in life-threatening condition," she said in an interview.
The bus was headed to Halifax from Sydney, N.S., when it reached the bridge just after 6 p.m. The 911 call came in at 6:22 p.m. AT.
Jim Wells, a paramedic supervisor with Emergency Health Services, said he arrived at the scene about 30 minutes after the accident.
Wells said the five people taken to hospital were all numb from the cold and suffering possible hypothermia.
"They were all in the water at one point before they got to land," he said Sunday.
"The driver was actually still in his seat and he was partially submerged ... legs and stuff. And they would have had to hit some water to get out the door."
Wells said he didn't see the rescue of the passengers, but heard reports about it from others at the scene.
"Several of them were actually on the roof and the rescue personnel had kind of spanned some ladders from either a section of land, or a section of ice, to the bus and they were retrieved that way."
Three industrial cranes lifted the bus out of the water Sunday. The badly damaged vehicle was later taken away by the Mounties, Sirois said.
"At this point, the bus is with RCMP for the usual investigation ... We may have access to the bus (Monday)," she added.
The Monastery area is notorious for poor driving conditions in the winter. Permanent signs on that section of the Trans-Canada Highway - also known as Highway 104 - warn of the threat of blowing snow.
Strong winds sometimes sweep down the Tracadie River, which quickly widens to about 350 metres just past the bridge.
"Our drivers have a lot of experience," said Sirois. "They're professional drivers. They know the roads. They are aware of winter conditions."

Organizations: RCMP, Acadian Lines, Trans-Canada Highway CTV Emergency Health Services

Geographic location: N.S. river, Nova Scotia, Tracadie River Cape Breton Baddeck River Montreal Halifax Sydney

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Recent comments

  • Liz
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    I seriously think they should do a psych analysis on this driver. First of all, why would he or Acadian Lines endanger the lives of the passengers if by chance there were whiteout conditions and secondly by some twist of fate this driver has a near fatal attraction to ditching his bus into the water! They should pull him from this route and put him where there are no open bodies of water and see if his luck changes!!! Better yet.....don't ride on his bus!!

  • Michael
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    I'm sorry, but I have to echo Liz Spicer's comments...TWO accidents, with similar circumstances in less than a year?!? Both times, a bus flew off a bridge with ~6 people on board, and the driver was the most seriously injured ? I HOPE I'm wrong, but this seems like a second unsuccessful suicide bid, and this driver should have a complete psychological workup before anyone hands him the keys to a bus again...

    Seriously...think about how many other motorists have successfully negotiated this stretch of road (and the bridge over the Baddeck River last year), not to mention daily Acadian Lines runs, in similar conditions, and you can't help but wonder if this is an attempt for the driver to off himself , at the expense of a half dozen or so innocent victims...

    Get some help....

  • BJ
    March 01, 2010 - 14:39

    It's normal to find those like Liz to always seek someone to blame or crucify. But a 'psych analysis'???? That's just silly.