A tour bus that hit the shoulder and rolled over on its side near Neils Harbour along the Cabot Trail is seen Sunday afternoon. A 70-year-old woman who was a passenger on the bus died from her injuries in hospital on Monday.
By Laura Jean Grant
Cape Breton Post
SYDNEY — A day after a bus crashed near Neils Harbour, a 70-year-old woman who was on board died from her injuries in hospital.
A tour bus that hit the shoulder and rolled over on its side near Neils Harbour along the Cabot Trail is seen Sunday afternoon. A 70-year-old woman who was a passenger on the bus died from her injuries in hospital on Monday. T.J. Colello - Cape Breton Post
RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae confirmed the death late Monday afternoon. The woman's name and hometown have not been released by police.
Two bus passengers, who are in serious but stable condition, were initially treated at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney but later transferred to Halifax, where they remain in hospital. Six others are in stable condition in Cape Breton hospitals.
The commercial tour bus they were all 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, spokeswoman with the Cape Breton District Health Authority, said 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.
Of the six patients still in hospital in Cape Breton, one is in Inverness, one is in Neils Harbour and four are in Sydney.
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.
Executive Coach Inc. was not answering any questions Monday but the company did issue a statement to the media. Dale McMichael, vice-president of Executive Coach, Inc., said the company is co-operating fully with law enforcement and international officials in the investigation.
"Safety has always been and continues to be our top priority. While we cannot change what happened, we pledge our assistance to the family of the victim and the survivors in the days and weeks ahead," he said.
"We are deeply grieved for the loss of life and injury and offer our sincere condolences to those affected by this tragedy."
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.
As staff at the Neils Harbour health centre prepared to treat the injured, a call went out to any other 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 ended up being transported directly to hospital Sydney, Lynk said staff at the rural hospital coped well in a 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 a debriefing process has already begun among district staff involved in treating the injured. In the days ahead they will discuss what worked well and what they could do better in a similar situation in the future.
Full statement to media from Executive Coach Inc. vice-president Dale McMichael:
A tragic accident has taken the life of one passenger and caused injury to several others who were traveling on one of our coaches in Nova Scotia. We offer our thoughts and prayers for the family and friends of everyone involved and are grateful to the local authorities for acting quickly to care for those who were injured.
We are deeply sorry that one of our coaches was involved. We are working closely with local authorities in Canada to understand what happened and are co-operating fully with law enforcement and international officials to aid their investigation.
Safety has always been and continues to be our top priority. While we cannot change what happened, we pledge our assistance to the family of the victim and the survivors in the days and weeks ahead.
We are deeply grieved for the loss of life and injury and offer our sincere condolences to those affected by this tragedy.