1 dead after Highway 401 bus crash, several remain in hospital

One man has died and several people remain in hospital with serious and life-threatening injuries after a tour bus carrying dozens of passengers crashed into a rock cut along Highway 401 near Prescott, Ont., on Monday afternoon.

Prescott, Ont., mayor calls for expansion of Highway 401 to 3 lanes from 2

A tow operator looks at the damaged side of the tour bus that crashed into a rock cut along the westbound lanes of Highway 401 near Prescott, Ont., on Monday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

One man has died and several people remain in hospital after a tour bus carrying dozens of passengers crashed into a rock cut along Highway 401 near Prescott, Ont., on Monday afternoon.

The man who died was a 54-year-old from Suzhou in eastern China's Jiangsu province, Ontario Provincial Police and Suzhou's tourism bureau said Tuesday.

The man died at Kingston General Hospital, which received four patients after Monday's crash. The other three patients are in critical condition. 

The Brockville General Hospital has two patients, one in critical condition and another who is stable. 

The Ottawa Hospital received five patients from the crash. One of those patients has been discharged, one is in critical condition and three are stable. 

Another 19 people were treated for less serious injuries at hospitals in Ottawa, Brockville and Kingston, but the OPP didn't know whether they had all been released or not.

The bus was carrying 37 people — 35 Chinese citizens (34 tourists and one tour guide), an American driver and an American tour guide — from Ottawa to Toronto.

It crashed on the highway's westbound lanes at approximately 2:45 p.m. Monday, according to OPP.

The tourists who survived are from the cities of:

  • Suzhou (eight).
  • Nantong (three).
  • Shanghai (13).
  • Hefei (six).
  • Ningbo (three).
Heng Xiaojun of the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa visits one of the bus passengers injured in Monday afternoon's crash. (@ChinaEmbOttawa/Twitter)

Released Ottawa passengers en route to Toronto

Ten passengers who were released from Ottawa hospitals stayed at the Best Western on Carling Avenue overnight. The Red Cross provided family reunification assistance and volunteers with the Ottawa Chinese Bible Church provided translation and other help.

"We helped them check in, we bought food for them, bought slippers for them to wear, and just to make sure that they felt at home, more settled in their hearts so they could sleep better in the evening," said church volunteer Elaine Cheng in an interview Tuesday.

"They couldn't believe that this had happened to them, but at the same time [were] thankful they are still alive. Definitely in pain after their bodies went through such a trauma."

'They want to go home'

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Duration 0:39
Elaine Cheng, a volunteer with the Ottawa Chinese Bible Church, helped bus passengers at the Best Western hotel on Carling Avenue Monday and Tuesday.

Many of the passengers had cuts on their faces. One man had a bruise and a cut above his eye, and another had a large gash from the top of his forehead to his cheekbone and a bruised face. One woman walked with crutches.

Others complained of sore muscles and whiplash.

They left Ottawa at 2 p.m. on a bus bound for Toronto. Other passengers who were taken to Brockville and Kingston for treatment after the crash will be picked up on the way, along with the luggage from the bus that crashed.

OPP investigation 'might take some time'

The tour was organized by a Sichuan branch of a Beijing-based tour agency called Beijing Trust Travel, according to China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Its parent company is Ctour Holiday based in the U.S.

The bus was operated by Union Tour Express, a company based out of Peabody, Mass.

Aiden Liang, a manager with the company, said Monday that the bus driver was in hospital and had a year of driving experience.

Dozens injured in bus crash on Highway 401

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Dozens injured in bus crash on Highway 401

OPP spokesperson Const. Suzanne Runciman said Tuesday that the investigation "might take some time."

"The language [barrier] is always going to make it a little more difficult. Each statement would require a translator," Runciman said.

An OPP translator was brought to the crash site Monday, and other translators are assisting, she said.

Frequent accidents on this stretch of 401

The mayor of Prescott is calling for the two-lane stretch of Highway 401 in the area to be expanded to three lanes.

Brett Todd told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday it's a "depressingly familiar" story.

"This is the third significant accident on that stretch of the 401 in a month, and it follows of course on the heels of other significant accidents in January, in late November, last summer," he said.

Brett Todd, the mayor of Prescott, says the province needs to expand a two-lane stretch of Highway 401 in eastern Ontario to three lanes. (Lorian Belanger/Radio-Canada)

"It is something that's really bolstering the call for that three-lane expansion here for this stretch of the 401. I think we're seeing the traffic numbers are up to the point where the province has to seriously look at this."

Todd has called for the change several times after other crashes on the 401, and has called driving on the highway a "blood sport."

"It hits close to home here," Todd said.

"We have a volunteer fire department, we have very good people that are risking their lives protecting us … and being called out for these regular occurrences on the 401 puts them at even greater risk."

Specifically, Todd is calling for three lanes of highway from the Highway 401/Highway 416 junction in the east to Brockville in the west.

The bus sits on the side of Highway 401 after crashing Monday. The highway has since reopened. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

With files from reporters Judy Trinh and Philip Ling, and CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning