Tragedy as pub­lic bus rolls

A bus laden with pas­sen­gers crashes in a ditch on Shute Har­bour Rd

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS - By Rory Sheav­ils and Peter Car­ruthers

IT WAS a har­row­ing scene on Shute Har­bour Rd Tues­day af­ter­noon, with emer­gency ser­vices con­verg­ing from all cor­ners of the re­gion to as­sist the vic­tims of a bus rollover.

Pas­sen­gers hud­dled un­der quickly erected tarps, an at­tempt to shield them from 35de­gree tem­per­a­tures while they waited their turn to be taken to Proser­pine Hos­pi­tal.

The bus was trav­el­ling from Air­lie Beach to Proser­pine about 1pm when it left the road and hit a steep em­bank­ment be­fore rolling onto its side. The bus was op­er­ated by Whit­sun­day Tran­sit and the ma­jor­ity of pas­sen­gers were Whit­sun­day lo­cals.

Those first on the scene told of the grim scene that con­fronted them.

Jake Coyne was trav­el­ling in the car be­hind and wit­nessed the crash first­hand.

He told of the need to kick out the wind­screen of the bus to al­low ac­cess to pas­sen­gers trapped in­side.

The site of the ac­ci­dent, 500 me­tres south of Gre­gory Cannon Val­ley Rd, was swarm­ing with emer­gency work­ers, am­bu­lance driv­ers work­ing con­stantly to min­imise the wait for in­jured pas­sen­gers im­mo­bilised by the side of the road.

All lo­cal traf­fic was di­verted through Strathdickie.

Proser­pine Am­bu­lance Sta­tion of­fi­cer in charge Gavin Cousens was one of the first on the scene.

Mr Cousens said 11 peo­ple had been in­jured, “all rang­ing from ages of six months old to 80 years of age”.

At the time of go­ing to press, a 17-year-old man re­mained in Townsville Hos­pi­tal in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion.

Five pa­tients had been dis­charged, while a 29-year-old man, a 23-year-old woman and a 79-year-old woman re­mained in Mackay Hos­pi­tal in sta­ble con­di­tions.

Mr Cousens de­scribed the scene as am­bu­lance of­fi­cers ar­rived.

“Out of those 11 peo­ple, four peo­ple were crit­i­cally in­jured, one was a pri­or­ity two and we had six peo­ple that were pri­or­ity three,” he said.

The pa­tients were taken to Proser­pine Hos­pi­tal, be­fore be­ing trans­ported to other med­i­cal cen­tres as needed.

“Four pa­tients went to Mackay, two pa­tients were air­lifted to Townsville Hos­pi­tal, (and) four pa­tients (re­mained at) Proser­pine Hos­pi­tal,” Mr Cousens said.

The RACQ CQ Res­cue He­li­copter and the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice car­ried out the emer­gency air­lifts.

Mr Cousens ex­pressed his con­fu­sion as to how the crash could have hap­pened.

“It was a very bright, sunny day, hap­pen­ing on what ap­peared to be a straight stretch of road,” he said.

“The rea­sons why the ac­ci­dent oc­curred at this stage are not clear.”

Pho­tos: Peter Car­ruthers

GRIM SCENE: Those first on the scene hold a tarp over in­jured pas­sen­gers while they wait to be trans­ported to hos­pi­tal.

Tarps pro­vided makeshift pro­tec­tion from the sun ad­ja­cent Shute Har­bour Rd.

Emer­gency work­ers do their best for vic­tims of the Whit­sun­day Tran­sit bus crash on Tues­day.

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