PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — A tour bus careened through a guardrail along an icy Oregon highway and 100 feet down a steep embankment Sunday, killing nine people and injuring more than 20 others, authorities said.
The charter bus carrying about 40 people lost control around 10:30 a.m. on snow- and ice-covered lanes of Interstate 84 in a rural area of eastern Oregon, according to the Oregon State Police. The bus crashed near the start of a 7-mile section of road that winds down a hill.
The bus came to rest at the bottom of a snowy slope and landed upright, with little or no debris visible around the crash site.
More than a dozen rescue workers descended the hill 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 because of the severity of the injuries the driver had suffered.
Lt. Gregg Hastings said the bus crashed along the west end of the Blue Mountains, and west of an area called Deadman Pass. The area is so dangerous the state transportation department published specific warnings for truck drivers, advising it had "some of the most changeable and severe weather conditions in the Northwest" and can lead to slick conditions and poor visibility.
St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton treated 26 people from the accident, said hospital spokesman Larry Blanc. Five of those treated at St. Anthony were transported to other facilities.
The East Oregonian said it spoke with two South Korean passengers, ages 16 and 17. Both said through a translator that they were seated near the rear of the bus when it swerved a few times, hit the guardrail and flipped. They described breaking glass and seeing passengers pinned by their seats as the bus slid down the hill. Both said that they feared for their lives.