B.C. tour bus cleared just before accident

A tour bus that collided head-on with a transport truck on the Trans-Canada Highway had been allowed back on the road just four days before the accident which killed six people.

The bus was full of tourists from Taiwan when it crashed into the truck Monday evening.

According to the Insurance Corporation of B.C., the bus was ordered out of service for a number of mechanical defects on Nov. 15.

A spokesperson for the insurance agency says the bus was reinspected last Friday and passed.

The RCMP say the accident killed a 27-year-old Revelstoke man who was driving the truck and the 46-year-old bus driver from Alberta. Four women who were part of the tour group were also killed.

The coroner has ordered autopsies for both drivers.

Two air ambulances helped transport 21 people for treatment. They were taken to hospitals in Vancouver, Golden, Kamloops, Revelstoke, Vernon and Salmon Arm.

Two of the injured are children, aged seven and 11. They are in a Vancouver hospital listed in critical condition.

A firefighter at the scene said bodies were thrown everywhere and the front of the bus was unrecognizable.

An interpreter was needed to help police and medical staff communicate with the victims.

"I've been doing this for almost 18 years," said Don Costa, one of the first volunteers on the scene.

"I've never seen anything like it. It was total destruction. It was chaos. It was just people everywhere. There were bus seats all over the ground, people lying everywhere.

"It was just ugly."

The crash occurred inside the McDonald Tunnel, a snow shed about 45 kilometres east of Revelstoke in eastern B.C. and caused the closing of the two-lane highway.

Emergency crews were able to enter from both ends of the tunnel, coming from Revelstoke and Golden.

Police say they don't know what caused the crash, but say neither driver error nor mechanical failure has been ruled out.

The Trans-Canada Highway is the main highway in the Rogers Pass. The McDonald Tunnel is the longest of several snow shed tunnels in the area.

The tunnels are designed to protect the road from snowslides. They look like carports with the uphill side against the rock face of the mountainside.

Local officials say they've long lobbied the governments to improve what they call treacherous driving conditions along that stretch of highway. But residents and civic leaders say the federal and provincial governments just keep passing the buck.

"There's no lighting in there so it's pretty dark, especially at that time of day with the dull lighting. It can be pretty tricky," says local resident Gary Rota.

The B.C. government has installed lighting in another tunnel on the same stretch of highway.

In writing, the government said it was putting in the new equipment so drivers could see better especially in the winter when snow blocks out natural light.