New Zealand tour bus crash, Five dead, 2 seriously hurt.
Five people have died after a tourist bus rolled in bad weather earlier today on State Highway 5 at Ngātira, near Rotorua.
Two others were seriously injured when the bus rolled and came to rest on its side.
Inspector Brent Crowe told reporters this afternoon that 27 people were on the bus, and five on board had lost their lives as a result of the crash.
Two other people were seriously injured, and a further four received moderate injuries. The remainder were injured to a lesser extent or were able to walk away from the scene.
State Highway 5 reopened around 7.30pm, about eight hours after the crash.
Crowe said the medium-sized tour bus had been carrying Chinese nationals.
“As you can understand this is a very traumatic event for all concerned, it has very far-reaching consequences and as a result our ethnic liaison team, including some Chinese speaking officers and Victim Support, are wrapped around the victims to provide them with the best possible care,” he said.
Police are also working with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Chinese Consulate to notify the next of kin.
“The Serious Crash Unit and the Commercial Vehicle Safety team are still at the scene seeking clues as to why this tragic event has occurred,” he said.
He sent his condolences to all those affected, and said the incident was an absolute tragedy.
Most of those on board the bus are understood to be from China’s Sichuan province.
The wounded were treated for injuries at the scene and others flown to hospitals around the North Island.
Crowe said the bus was travelling south towards Rotorua and failed to take a moderate bend. As a result it went to the wrong side of the road, corrected and subsequently flipped.
The driver is believed not to be seriously injured, and the bus was the only vehicle involved in the incident.
Crowe said he could not answer whether the passengers were wearing seatbelts or not, this would be part of the ongoing investigation.
He also said it was too early to say whether any charges would be laid.
Crowe said work is still ongoing on the recovery phase, including a crane which was being brought in to lift the bus.
The main focus now was the recovery of the deceased, he said.
“This is still very much in an evolving recovery stage … We’ve got to do this meticulously carefully and with respect for those that have lost their lives,” he said.
Crowe said the road is reasonably hilly, has a number of curves, and the weather was unfavourable with high winds, rain and fog at the time of the incident.
He said the Bay of Plenty region had had a terrible year for road tragedies.
“I think the aroha from the Rotorua community will shine through and we will assist these people to recovery,” Crowe said.
Crash site chaos:
Bishnal Basnet, who was travelling with his brother and uncle from Te Puke to Hamilton, was among the first people on the scene.
The crash site, he said, was chaos with people screaming and crying and trying to get off the bus in heavy rain.
He carried an Asian woman in her fifties on his back away from the bus before the emergency services arrived after 10 or 15 minutes.
He stayed at the crash site directing traffic for about an hour.