A bus full of tourists fell 200 feet after sliding off a highway during a tour of Oregon’s Blue Mountain range, killing nine of its 48 passengers. Because many of the passengers, ranging in age from 7 to 74, were South Korean visitors to Oregon, police had difficulty identifying many of the victims. Some of the South Korean tourists spoke little English and were forced to leave their passports buried in snow at the crash site. Two officials from National Transportation Safety Board have been tasked with investigating the accident. It is unclear whether any of the victims or their families plan to bring civil litigation against the driver or his employer.
Police say the accident occurred near a spot known as Deadman’s Pass on Interstate 84. The bus was traveling in the highway’s left lane when it struck a median and lost control, causing it to veer across several lanes and break through a guardrail. The bus then fell hundreds of feet, completely overturning at least once before coming to rest. Several passengers were reportedly thrown through broken windows during the fatal crash. A number of survivors described being pinned to their seats and seeing the snow littered with bodies.
Following the crash, rescue personnel lifted the victims back up the hill in baskets in backboards. All of the survivors were transported to 10 different medical care facilities across three states with a variety of injuries including broken bones, deep gashes and lacerations.
According to an advisory from the Oregon Department of Transportation, Deadman’s Pass is known to suffer severe and unpredictable weather conditions. However, a representative for the agency said the icy state of the road on the day of the accident was not unusual. One South Korean exchange student said he was worried in the moments leading up to crash and told reporters he thought the bus was traveling at unsafe speeds.
Source: NY Daily News, “Survivors recall terror after a bus crash in Oregon’s Blue Mountain range kills 9,” Carol Kuruvilla, Jan. 1, 2012