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'Broken' survivors of tour bus crash find kindness in Brockville

Volunteers and Chinese community members in Brockville, Ont., have been stepping up to look after survivors of last week's tour bus crash on Highway 401, which killed three people and injured many more.

'They were broken people in a place that they did not know, in a place where they knew no one'

Investigators work at the site of a crash involving a tour bus on Highway 401 near Prescott, Ont., on Monday, June 4, 2018. Three Chinese citizens died in the crash, and some survivors are still in Brockville, Ont., awaiting their trips back home. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang)

It's been a week since a bus carrying 37 people — mostly tourists from China — crashed into a rock wall along Highway 401 near Prescott, Ont., killing three people and injuring many others.

Most of the survivors have since been released from hospitals in Ottawa, Kingston and Brockville, Ont., where they've been getting help from the Red Cross and the local Chinese community.

They were shocked. They were scared.- Laura Tobin, Red Cross volunteer

On Monday a few remained in Brockville, waiting for their belongings and for flights home.

Laura Tobin, a volunteer for the Red Cross's personal disaster assistance responders group, told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning on Monday that she met the first group of survivors the night of the crash at a Shopper's Drug Mart in Brockville.

Tobin had asked a friend from the Chinese community to come with her to translate.

'They were hurting'

"They were shocked. They were scared. They were in a place that they were not familiar with, and probably had never even heard of Brockville," Tobin said of the survivors.

"And so as these folks saw me, that was one thing, but as they heard [my friend] speak in Mandarin and communicate with them in a language that they understood, you could just see a sense of relief on their faces."

Three Chinese citizens died in hospital in the days after the crash: 54-year-old Changlin Xu, 57-year-old Xueying Ye, and 60-year-old Weiping Lu. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Tobin couldn't understand what the survivors said, but could sense through their tone and body language some of what they were going through.

"You could hear, you could sense in them just this anxiousness, this pain. You could see the physical wounds ... they were hurting. They were broken people in a place that they did not know, in a place where they knew no one. And they didn't even know what was going on with their friends because they had been whisked away in different directions to receive the incredible care that was given," she said.

Chinese community steps in

Tobin and other Red Cross volunteers went to Walmart to pick up "basic essentials" including T-shirts, track pants, socks, underwear and toiletries, and the survivors stayed at the Super 8 Motel in Brockville the first night.

By suppertime, other Chinese residents of Brockville had showed up to lend a hand.

"They came, and they were present, and they simply sat and listened to these people who were broken. They brought food, they brought yummy fruits," Tobin said.

Heng Xiaojun of the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa visits one of the bus passengers injured in last Monday's crash on Highway 401. (@ChinaEmbOttawa/Twitter)

The motel owner's child, along with Grade 1-2 classmates and a teacher at J.L. Jordan Catholic School, also created a gift.

"They put together a beautiful poster. It was a picture of a bus ... with Canadian flags in the corners, and each of the children wrote a little beautiful note to those who had been impacted by the accident, and just the outpouring of care from those kids was very, very cool," Tobin said.

CBC Radio's Ontario Morning

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