UPDATED: 5:34P.M. SYDNEY — A 70-year-old woman who was on board a bus that crashed near Neils Harbour on the weekend died Monday.
Two other passengers, who were initially treated at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, have since been taken to hospital in Halifax. They are both in serious but stable condition. The commercial tour bus they were on went off the road Sunday afternoon approximately three kilometres south of Neils Harbour on the Cabot Trail.
A total of 21 people were on board including the driver. The bus involved is owned by Executive Coach Inc., a charter bus company based in Lancaster, Pa.
"All people were believed to be from the Lancaster, Pa. area on a tour of Nova Scotia, (including) the Cabot Trail and then back to the U.S.," said MacRae."We did receive calls from the U.S. Consulate (stating) if any of those people need assistance they can contact their U.S. Consulate in Halifax."
Lynn Gilbert, spokesperson with the Cape Breton District Health Authority, said Monday they treated 18 people involved in the accident at several island hospitals including the regional hospital in Sydney, the Buchanan Memorial Community Health Centre in Neils Harbour, Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital, and Sacred Heart Community Health Centre in Cheticamp.
As of late Monday afternoon, six patients remained in district hospitals — one in Inverness, one in Neils Harbour and four in Sydney. All six are in stable condition.
MacRae said a mechanical inspection of the bus was carried out Monday and the findings are under review.
"The cause of the crash is still under investigation," he said.
MacRae did not have any information about where the passengers who have been released from hospital are now.
Representatives from Executive Coach Inc. were not answering any questions Monday but the company did issue a statement to the media late in the day.
"We are fully co-operating with the authorities in the investigation of this accident," stated the company. "We are not in a position to answer your questions. We will respond to your questions at such time as we have determined that it is appropriate to do so."
RCMP have said the driver appears to have lost control of the bus near a turn in the road. The bus hit the shoulder of the road and rolled onto its side.
A number of emergency response teams responded to the scene including police, EHS paramedics and members of three local volunteer fire departments — Neils Harbour/New Haven, Ingonish, and Cabot.
In addition to hospital staff based at the Neils Harbour health centre, a call went out to any doctors and nurses who may be in the area at a cottage or on vacation. Among those who responded was Sydney-based Dr. Andrew Lynk, who was in Ingonish when he heard about the accident.
"There was about four other physicians in the community — one emergency room physician, one surgeon and two family doctors so I called them and we all hopped in our individual cars and came up to supplement and help the two doctors Dr. Ken Murray and Dr. Bernie Buffett there," he said, noting there were also some nurses in the area who came in to offer their assistance.
While most of the serious casualties were transported directly to hospital in Sydney, Lynk praised the work of staff in a very challenging situation.
"The staff at the Buchanan Memorial were great, very well organized and very cool and calm and professional," he said.
Lynk, associate vice-president of medicine with the Cape Breton District Health Authority, said the incident served as a reminder of the challenges, particularly in rural areas, of dealing with a major accident.
Sgt. Brigdit Leger, an RCMP spokeswoman, reported the 911 call came in about 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
The crash happened about three kilometres south of Neil's Harbour. Leger said one of the passengers was seriously injured, and nine others sustained less serious injuries. The condition of the other 11 passengers is unknown early Monday morning.
Leger said it appears the driver lost control of the bus while going around a turn, causing it to roll onto its side and into a ditch. An EHS LifeFlight was dispatched, and numerous other agencies responded to the scene.
The Cabot Trail was closed for several hours, but was reopened just after 7 p.m. Sunday.
- With files from The Canadian Press