Students from Princess Margaret Secondary School and one teacher who is pregnant are doing well after being involved in a head-on collision on Tuesday evening.
A 46-year-old Oliver man was killed in the crash after his northbound Chrysler Cirrus crossed into the oncoming lane of Highway 97 and struck the school bus.
“We have one student who sustained a head injury and was airlifted to Kelowna hospital. She is being monitored and treated for her injuries,” said Wendy Hyer, superintendent of schools for School District 67. “The teacher is in hospital and being monitored due to her pregnancy. At this point her and the baby’s vital signs are good.”
The remainder of the 14 students who were on their way back from H2O aquatic and fitness centre in Kelowna in the 24-passenger bus were treated for their injuries on Tuesday and released that evening.
“Most were minor injuries, including soft tissue injuries, a broken ankle and a concussion. Some have even returned to school (Wednesday) morning,” said Hyer, adding the district crisis intervention team has made themselves available to support students and staff who may be struggling emotionally.
The pregnant teacher operating the bus was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the collision, which RCMP collision investigators said contributed greatly to minimizing her injuries. The school bus was equipped with seatbelts for all the passengers, but many riding in the bus were not wearing them.
“There is also telltale evidence in the bus indicating the lack of seatbelt usage, which is very concerning. It is extremely fortunate for these students that the injuries sustained were not more serious,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk. “At any speed, in particular highway speeds, the use of a seatbelt will certainly minimize your injuries and in some cases make the difference between your life and death. If you are travelling in a vehicle designed and equipped with seatbelts, use them.”
At about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday Summerland RCMP and the South Okanagan Traffic Services responded to a three-vehicle collision on Highway 97, near Greata Ranch. Preliminary findings by the RCMP indicate the Chrysler Cirrus was northbound when it crossed over the undivided highway into the southbound lane. The sedan struck the school bus head on, causing the school bus to be pushed into a second southbound vehicle. The driver of that vehicle was shaken with only minor injuries.
“The weather at the time was described as a heavy downpour and appears to be one contributing factor,” said Moskaluk.
David Finnis was driving home to Summerland from his job at the library in Westbank when he came upon the scene before any emergency services arrived.
“I was behind the accident by a couple of minutes. I first saw the cars pulled to the side of the road then came around the corner and saw this bus that was into the guard rail, a whole bunch of students were out behind it and people were swarming around,” said Finnis. “I couldn’t really tell how they were doing, but it was obvious something had just happened. There were people that looked concerned and others bending over someone.”
Finnis said he slowly backed up his vehicle after surveying the scene and seeing that people who knew first aid were already helping the accident victims.
“I turned on my flashing lights to try and be in a position to stop traffic before they came around the corner. There was about eight or 10 cars that kept going right past me around the accident. I knew the thing to do here was to try and stop traffic so emergency vehicles could get in,” said Finnis.
An RCMP collision reconstructionalist attended in order to examine the collision scene and traffic was diverted to alternating lanes while the scene was examined.