PENDLETON, Ore. – Survivors of the bus crash that killed nine people on a partly icy section of interstate in rural Eastern Oregon said Monday some passengers were thrown from the tour bus through broken windows after the vehicle skidded out of control, smashed through a guardrail and plummeted 100 feet down an embankment.
When the charter bus came to a rest, terrified passengers looked around for their loved ones.
“Some mothers screamed to find their son or daughter,” said Jaemin Seo, a 23-year-old exchange student from Suwon, South Korea.
Berlyn Sanderson, 22, of Surrey, British Columbia, said she and several other passengers were ejected. “It’s kind of like one of those dreams you have of the world ending,” she said.
The bus, owned by a British Columbia company, was returning to Canada from Las Vegas, one of the stops on a nine-day western tour, when it crashed Sunday just east of Pendleton.
Some of he 48 aboard were exchange students from South Korea. Some were from British Columbia, some from Washington state. All survivors were sent to hospitals.
The crash occurred near a spot on Interstate 84 called Deadman Pass, at the top of a steep, seven-mile descent from the Blue Mountains. That section of road is so notorious that state transportation officials have published a warning that says it has “some of the most changeable and severe weather conditions in the Northwest.”
Still, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, Tom Strandberg, said that while there were icy spots where the crash occurred, it was nothing unusual for this time of year.
The highway has been shut down several times this winter, mostly due to crashed trucks blocking the road, he said.