TORONTO — A semitrailer collided with a bus carrying mostly senior citizens on a rural highway in Canada on Thursday morning, killing at least 15 people and injuring 10, authorities said, in one of the deadliest road accidents in the country’s recent history.
The bus, carrying passengers heading to a casino, was struck by the semitrailer at an intersection along the Trans-Canada Highway near Carberry, Manitoba, roughly 105 miles west of Winnipeg, police said.
Most of the victims were from the nearby city of Dauphin. The bus passengers ranged in age from 58 to 88 years old and included 19 women and six men, Superintendent Rob Lasson of the Manitoba RCMP Major Crime Service told reporters on Friday.
He said that the deceased passengers haven’t been identified individually.
“Our most heartfelt sympathies are with the families who have learned today that their loved one died in this horrific collision,” Lasson said Friday, adding that the “investigation is still ongoing with lots of work to do.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the collision “incredibly tragic.”
“I’m sending my deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones today, and I’m keeping the injured in my thoughts,” he said in a tweet. “I cannot imagine the pain those affected are feeling — but Canadians are here for you.”
Lasson told reporters Friday that a dash-cam video from the semi truck and witness statements appeared to indicate that the bus entered the road where the truck had the right of way. He said police have spoken to the truck driver, but have not interviewed the bus driver, who is hospitalized.
“We are not assigning culpability or laying any blame at this time,” Lasson said.
He said that authorities had seized both the semitrailer and the bus and were determining whether the latter had a data recorder that could help answer several key questions, including the speed of the vehicle and its mechanical status.
The deadly collision has stoked memories of the catastrophic junior hockey team bus crash in neighboring Saskatchewan five years ago that killed 16 players, coaches and staffers and injured 13 others.
The April 6, 2018, collision between a tractor-trailer and a bus carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos junior A team was one of the deadliest road crashes in Canadian history. The truck driver pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous operation and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
“This incident does have echoes of the tragic collision that happened in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, and we are very much aware of that,” Lasson said Thursday. “We have already linked into the investigators in Saskatchewan who have firsthand experience.”
Canada suffered its deadliest road crash in October 1997, when a bus carrying seniors on a Thanksgiving Day fall foliage tour failed to negotiate a turn in Les Éboulements, Quebec, smashed through a guardrail and plunged 60 feet down a ravine, killing 44.
“I don’t believe we’ve had a mass casualty traffic accident like this in Manitoba,” Lasson said Thursday.
Shawn Young, chief operating officer of the Health Sciences Center, a trauma hospital in Winnipeg, told reporters Friday that six of the 10 injured are in critical care at the facility with injuries he called “significant.” He said many of the injuries were orthopedic in nature and had required surgery.
“Age does have a big impact on our ability to withstand injuries like this,” he said. “It will impact their recovery. It will impact their outcomes as well. This is an elderly cohort of patients, so the recoveries will be long, and of course, could be complicated.”
Kathryn Braun, director of the office of the chief medical examiner in Manitoba, said that three investigators are working full-time on gathering information that might help identify the victims.
The victims couldn’t be identified visually, Braun told reporters on Friday, because most had “significant facial trauma. Investigators must rely on fingerprint analysis, dental records or features of medical histories such as the serial numbers of hip replacements.
“The worst possible outcome for us is to mistakenly identify someone and give wrong information to families,” he said, adding that he hopes to have each of the victims identified by the middle of next week.
Braun has been working in forensic pathology for nearly three decades.
“There hasn’t been an event like this in that time,” he said.
An earlier version of this article said that 15 people were killed in a Saskatchewan bus crash five years ago. Sixteen were killed. The article has been corrected.