As It Happens

After Ontario bus crash, Mandarin-speaking locals volunteer to help Chinese tourists

After 37 Chinese tourists were involved in a deadly bus crash near Prescott, Ontario this week, a handful of Mandarin-speaking residents in a small Eastern Ontario town have stepped in to help them out. Added to that grief -- none of the passengers spoke English. It prompted a handful of Mandarin-speaking residents in a small Eastern Ontario town to step in and help.

The Ontario Provincial Police have confirmed that 3 have died since the accident

Alice Yao Wang says many of the Chinese tourists involved in Monday's bus crash are now in recovery and preparing to go back home to China. (Submitted by Alice Wang)

A group of Chinese tourists who were in a coach bus crash near Prescott, Ont., on Monday are now recovering and preparing to head back home to China, says a Brockville resident who has been helping the victims.

The bus, which was carrying 37 passengers at the time, crashed into a stone wall while it was driving on Highway 401. Dozens were left badly injured. Ontario Provincial Police have confirmed that three people have died since the accident.

Alice Yao Wang, who was born in China and now lives in Brockville, says she was called to help out the victims after the accident because many didn't speak English.

She says when she arrived at the hospital, many of the tourists were in a state of shock.

"They [were] so frustrated and panicked and lots of people got injured," she told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"The suitcases broke, stuff missing, cell phones gone. They have a very difficult time to communicate with their families. It was the worst time during that moment."

According to Wang, the tourists were mostly in their 60s, and told her that they were travelling in Canada to enjoy their retirement.

She said many of the tourists suffered injuries from broken pieces of glass cause by the crash.

A tow operator looks towards the damaged side of a tour bus that was involved in a crash on Highway 401 West, near Prescott, Ont. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

"Lots of people still have bruises on the shoulder, on the waist," she said. "People on the right side [of the bus] got the worst injuries."

It was particularly difficult for her to help the husband of a passenger who died.

"Yesterday, I visited him and I feel he was very emotional," she said.

Wang added that the family wanted to put the woman on life support so that her son would have time to travel to Canada from China and see her one last time.

She said he arrived last night but isn't sure if he got to the hospital in time.

They really appreciate the help from the hospital, Red Cross and also the Chinese community.- Alice Yao Wang

Wang said the woman died late Wednesday.

"When I was visiting, the husband ... he was holding his wife [all the time]," she said.

"He said, 'We have been married for more than 30 years.'"

Despite witnessing the tragic loss, Wang said many of the tourists were able to get treatment.

She added that many volunteers who speak Mandarin have come forward to aid the tourists, and have since been helping them navigate the hospital system and offer emotional support. Many have already started making plans to go back home.   

The tourists have been staying in two hotels in Brockville. The son of one of the hotel owners offers his support for the bus crash's victims. (Submitted by Alice Yao Wang)

"I think they are quite pacified, and some of them are already packed to go home, I think tomorrow," said Wang.

Since the accident, the Chinese community in Canada has become very involved in helping the tourists.

She added that some have been staying at nearby hotels, and volunteers have been on hand every day to chat with the tourists.

For this reason, Wang believes the tourists are thankful for all of the support.

"They are pretty good and calm," she said.

"They really appreciate the help from the hospital, Red Cross and also the Chinese community. They are very, very grateful for what they have received."

Written by Samantha Lui. Interview with Alice Yao Wang produced by Jeanne Armstrong.