Over 50 hospitalized after bus crash on Highway 97C near Merritt

By Greg Bowman and Shawn Ayers and Astrid Agbayani

At least 53 people have been taken to hospital as part of a serious bus crash that happened on Highway 97C Saturday night.

According to Interior Health, the patients were taken to three different hospitals in Kelowna, Penticton, and Merritt.

The health authority has issued a code orange, meaning a disaster or mass casualties, due to the incident. It is unknown if there are any fatalities.

The vehicle involved in the incident belonged to the Alberta-based company, Ebus. President of the bus line, John Stepovy, tells CityNews the vehicle was travelling from Kelowna to Vancouver when it crashed on the Okanagan Connector.

“First and foremost, our thoughts and our prayers are with everyone impacted,” he said in a phone call Sunday. “We’re certainly thankful for the first responders and healthcare workers that have supported and are continuing to support the unfortunate incident.”

Stepovy says the company will cooperate with the RCMP in its investigation.

Interior Health has also set up an information line to help people locate loved ones who were involved in the incident. The health authority is expected to provide an update on the situation at 11 a.m. Sunday.

B.C. Premier David Eby and provincial ministers released a statement on the incident late Saturday night.

“On this Christmas Eve we are shocked and saddened to hear of the serious bus accident on the Highway 97C Okanagan Connector between Merritt and Kelowna,” the statement read.

“Our thoughts are with those impacted by the crash, their loved ones, and the first responders and health-care workers giving their all to treat people and keep them safe.”

The RCMP earlier said a passenger bus was involved in a serious accident near Merritt, Saturday with Okanagan Connector closed in both directions.

A caller to CityNews, one of the fathers of two passengers who asked not to be named for privacy, says the accident happened around 6:15 pm Saturday.

“Thirty minutes ago I called ambulance services, they said they were notified and they’re sending things but it’s a full bus, right. There’s 40-50 people on the bus. My two daughters are on the bus and they called and they’re not okay,” the caller said.

He says there are reports of serious injuries from passengers on board. According to the father, his daughters and some fellow passengers are sheltering in cars that have pulled over to assist as it is dark, and many people have lost their phones.

Stay with CityNews as we work to bring you the latest on this developing story.

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