British Columbia

Health authority bus hit by semi-trailer on northwest B.C. highway

Northern Health says a passenger bus carrying patients to medical appointments was struck Monday by a semi-trailer. A dozen passengers, the bus driver, and the driver of the truck all escaped injury.

No injuries in collision, as freezing rain caused treacherous conditions on Hwy 16 west of Terrace

The scene of the collision on Highway 16. All 12 bus passengers and both drivers escaped injury, officials said. RCMP said there have been 'multiple' crashes on the stretch of road between Prince Rupert and Terrace in the past couple of days due to treacherous conditions. (Submitted by Montana Leigh)

A dozen passengers and the driver of a Northern Health bus escaped injury after the vehicle was hit by a semi-trailer on the highway connecting Prince Rupert and Terrace, B.C., on Monday morning, the health authority said.

Spokesperson Eryn Collins said the Northern Health Connections bus had pulled to the side of the road to install chains on a remote stretch of Highway 16 at Agate Creek, about 60 kilometres east of Prince Rupert, amid treacherous winter conditions. 

The bus was then hit by the truck, whose driver also escaped injury, RCMP said.

Northern Health sent a second bus to the site of the bus crash, but passengers weren't able to continue their trip to Prince George due to road conditions, and they returned to Prince Rupert to spend the night in a hotel.

Transportation officials closed a 100-kilometre stretch of Highway 16 on Monday afternoon due to freezing rain. Travel advisories and highway closures have continued through Tuesday.

RCMP Const. Brody Hemrich said there were "multiple" motor vehicle incidents on Highway 16 on Tuesday, including collisions and vehicles in the ditch. 

He said officers responding to numerous calls were stuck on the highway west of Terrace for two hours, as other vehicles were blocking the highway. 

A DriveBC highway cam shows conditions on Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Terrace on Tuesday. (Contributed/DriveBC)

Northern Health Connections is a low-cost travel service for patients who need to travel for out-of-town health-care appointments. Senior citizens in the authority area can also purchase tickets. 

Collins said the service is "very safe, with a stellar safety record."

Prince Rupert Coun. Barry Cunningham says the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure should fix Highway 16 by next winter.

"Even during this winter, we should be looking at changes the way maintenance is done," Cunningham told host Carolina de Ryk on CBC's Daybreak North. "That highway [is] not just for medical appointments, but [also for] food coming to [Prince Rupert]."

In an emailed statement to CBC, the ministry said the removal of ice and compact snow on highways during extreme cold conditions is very challenging, but that they are making good progress.

With files from Bill Fee and Daybreak North

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