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Bus company identified in Oregon crash that killed 9

December 30, 2012|By Matt Pearce | This post has been corrected. See below for details.
  • A bus lies at the bottom of an embankment along Interstate 84 in northeastern Oregon. The crash killed at least nine passengers.
A bus lies at the bottom of an embankment along Interstate 84 in northeastern… (Tim Trainor / East Oregonian )

The charter bus that crashed Sunday morning in northeastern Oregon, killing nine on its way from Las Vegas to Vancouver, Canada, belonged to Mi Joo Tour & Travel of Vancouver, officials said.

Twenty-six people were taken to St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, Ore., with injuries, police said.

A phone number listed for Mi Joo Tour & Travel was not accepting calls on Sunday evening. But an employee reached by the Oregonian, Ryan Choi, confirmed that the bus belonged to the company and told the Portland, Ore., newspaper that the company has rented out its tour buses to travel companies for more than 10 years.

The bus slid off a straight stretch of Interstate 84 east of Pendleton and appeared to have rolled down an 85-foot embankment before coming to rest at the bottom, where a foot of snow had collected, Umatilla County Emergency Manager Jack Remillard told the Los Angeles Times.

“That spot up there has claimed quite a few lives over the years," Remillard said. "It’s a rough stretch of road up there. ... Right where that’s at is probably two or three miles of straight stretch. It’s a freeway. It’s a nice road when it’s decent weather, but when it’s slick, it can get treacherous.”

Officials estimated about 40 passengers were riding the bus but have not confirmed the total. None of their names were expected to be released Sunday. Investigators were still at the accident scene Sunday evening.

The driver survived, "but investigators have not been able to speak to this person because of severity of injuries and medical care," the Oregon State Police said in a statement. Remillard said the driver was male.

The tough terrain and the snow in the area, near a place known as Emigrant Hill, hampered the rescue. Emergency workers had to form rope teams to recover survivors, officials said. Photos from the scene by the Pendleton-based East Oregonian newspaper showed the bus resting upright with its top partially sheared off.

[For the record, Dec. 31, 10:38 a.m.: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Emigrant Hill as Immigrant Hill.] 

Officials said the nine people killed were declared dead at the scene. Five of the 26 injured were later taken to a different hospital, police said.

Larry Blanc, spokesman for St. Anthony Hospital, told The Times he didn't know the condition of the survivors at the hospital, but he said, "We’ve been very busy with CAT scans, X-rays, that type of thing, and we do have surgeons on duty that have been in surgery."

Some survivors were able to move around on their own. “I’ve seen some that have been standing and walking into the triage area" at the hospital, Blanc said.

He said that the hospital initiated a "disaster code" after receiving word of the crash about a dozen miles away.

Police said that survivors would be staying at the Convention Center in Pendleton and that the Red Cross would be helping them.

The crash was the second Sunday morning on Interstate 84 in northeastern Oregon. State police said a 69-year-old man died when the Ford F-350 pickup he was riding in hit an icy stretch of road and rolled over two and a half times.

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