A 14-year-old girl is dead and several people are injured after a Quebec tour bus carrying 55 passengers careened off a New York state highway Friday morning and flipped onto its side in the median.
The incident happened on Interstate 87, also known as the Adirondack Northway, near North Hudson, N.Y.
New York State Police said the victim, 14-year-old Chelssy Mercier, was travelling with her mother.
The teen girl was thrown from the bus as it flipped, becoming trapped underneath when the bus came to a stop partly on top of her, according New York State Police Maj. Richard Smith.
Several other passengers were hurt in the incident, with injuries ranging from internal chest injuries to lacerations and broken bones.
Canadian Minister of State Lynne Yelich said officials are working with local authorities to gather information and support the passengers and their families.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the person who was killed in a bus crash on Interstate 87 in upstate New York, and we wish a prompt recovery to those injured," Yelich said in a statement released Friday.
Members of Canada's Standing Rapid Deployment Team — a unit of specialized officials who work with Canada’s embassies and consulates to help provide critical services to citizen during emergencies — have been deployed.
Police wait for black box data
New York State Police said right before the crash, the bus had been travelling in the right-hand lane.
Witnesses said the bus moved into the left lane and then veered off the road, travelling into the embankment and rolling onto its side.
Police are investigating the cause of the crash.
The bus was carrying a black box and police said they hope that analysis of that data will help them understand what could have caused the incident.
'Heroic' witnesses risked lives to help
State police thanked a group of two Canadian families travelling together who saw the bus run off the road and stopped to help.
Smith said the witnesses tried to save the girl's life, using jacks to lift the bus off her, but when paramedics arrived on the scene, she was declared dead.
"Each family risked their own safety, travelled into the median and did everything that they could to assist at the scene including attempting to help lift the bus off our deceased, helping with CPR," he said.
Smith commended the Canadian families for their help, calling it a "heroic" gesture.
He said it was a traumatizing experience, and one of the people who stopped to help — a father himself — broke down after trying to save the life of the girl.
Mathieu Donnelly, 17, was one of the witnesses who stopped to help.
He was travelling with his family on the way to Florida, when they saw the crash happen. He and his parents stopped their car and rushed to help.
Donnelly spoke with CBC's Radio Noon and shared the following first-hand account of the incident.
Emergency personnel help passengers escape
Don Jaquish, emergency services director in Essex County, told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that several people trapped inside the bus had to be removed by emergency personnel.
"I'm sure a lot of them crawled through the top hatches because the bus was on its side," he said.
Jaquish said the bus was filled with college-age students and their relatives on their way to a tour of New York City.
Injured passengers were taken by ambulance and helicopter to hospitals in Glens Falls, N.Y., Burlington, Vt., and Elizabethtown, N.Y.
Crash followed breakfast stop
Quebec bus company Autobus Fleur de Lys has confirmed the bus was part of its fleet.
It was being operated by tour company JaimonVoyage and was travelling from Quebec City to New York City.
'He's a man of experience, all of our drivers are experienced drivers' - Josiane Grimard, spokeswoman for JaimonVoyage
Company spokeswoman Josiane Grimard told Radio-Canada that the bus crashed at 8 a.m. ET Friday just after a breakfast stop, and she had no word on the cause.
The passengers were from Quebec City, Trois-Rivières and Longueuil, and were scheduled to return from New York City on Sunday, she said.
"Those in good health will be brought back to Quebec by a bus we're sending down for that purpose," Grimard said.
North Hudson is about 145 kilometres north of Albany.
Another Quebec tour bus crashed on the same stretch of road near North Hudson in 2004.
Eighteen people were hospitalized when that Florida-bound charter bus collided with a tractor-trailer.
Driver a veteran of the route
Grimard said the bus driver was experienced and "knows the route by heart."
"He's a man of experience, all of our drivers are experienced drivers," she said.
Georges Morissette, president of Autobus Fleur de Lys, said in a statement the driver has nearly 30 years' experience and an impeccable driving record.
He has worked for Autobus Fleur de Lys since April 2012 and was getting back on the road after seven days off.