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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB First responders secure the area at the crash scene near Carberry, Manitoba, Canada June 15, 2023 in this still image obtained from a social media video. PortageOnline/Mike Blume/via REUTER

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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Flags flew lowered in the Canadian province of Manitoba on Friday following a deadly crash between a bus carrying mostly elderly passengers and a truck, as investigators identified the injured and reviewed video footage from a camera mounted on the truck.

Fifteen people were killed and another 11 people were injured in the fiery collision on Thursday between a bus headed to a casino and a tractor-trailer truck at a highway junction near the town of Carberry, 170 km (105 miles) west of Winnipeg.

It was one of Canada’s worst recent road crashes.

Crash investigators determined from video footage of the wreck that the bus entered the roadway where the tractor-trailer rig had the right of way, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Superintendent Rob Lasson told a press conference.

Still, the precise cause of the accident remained under investigation, he stressed. “We are not assigning culpability or laying any blame at this time. We are merely stating the facts as we know them,” Lasson said.

The video was taken from a camera mounted on the truck, according to Lasson, who said both vehicles would undergo extensive mechanical analysis.

The truck driver and 10 people who were aboard the bus, including its driver, survived the crash with injuries, and the 15 remaining bus passengers were killed, according to police.

Police have interviewed the truck driver but not the bus operator, who was more severely injured, Lasson said.

“The 10 people injured in this collision have now been identified,” Lasson said, referring to those on the bus. “This means that anyone else who was on this bus is presumed now to be deceased.”

“For the last few hours, RCPM members have been having very difficult conversations with family members, unfortunately notifying them that their loved one is among the 15 believed to be deceased,” he added.

None of the dead had yet to be individually identified. An official for the coroner’s office said medical examiners would rely on dental and other medical records to establish positive ID for each victim.

“Most if not all of the deceased have significant facial trauma, so identifying them visually is not possible,” he told reporters.

‘DEVASTATED BY THIS NEWS’

The bus passengers ranged in age from 58 to 88 years old, most of them women. Of the 10 survivors from the bus, six were women and four were men, police said.

Flags were lowered at the provincial legislature in Winnipeg, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the flag on top of the tallest building at the national Parliament in Ottawa would be lowered as well.

“It’s a terrible, terrible thing that occurred, and our thoughts go out to the families that have been absolutely devastated by this news,” he told reporters in Montreal.

Bunches of flowers began to appear at the crash site on Friday morning.

The small white bus was burnt to a shell. Virtually all the passengers were members of the Dauphin seniors center, acting head Glenn Kaleta told reporters.

“It’s terrible for our city, for our rural community. And the seniors center is going to be hit very hard,” he said.

Ron Bretecher, whose parents were on the bus, told reporters his mother had survived the crash but his father was still unaccounted for.

“(My) family’s just basically waiting for word. … It’s just very difficult,” he said.

The victims were from the town of Dauphin, population 8,000, some 175 km (109 miles) north of Carberry.

“Literally, everybody in town knows somebody that was on that bus,” Mayor David Bosiak told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. “It’s obviously extremely hard to be optimistic at this time. … Everything seems so dark and gloomy.”

Police said they would be looking at videos taken by passersby and talking to witnesses.

Nirmesh Vadera told the CBC he had been working at a nearby cafe when he went outside and saw a vehicle engulfed in flames.

“The fire was about 10 to 15 feet high and the smoke was almost 20, 30 feet high,” Vadera said.

The crash was the worst in Canada since 16 people died in 2018 when a truck hit a bus transporting a junior hockey team in neighboring Saskatchewan. The truck driver was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2019.



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