Bus crashes, rolls over
Shocked passengers have described the terror of their bus tipping off the road at the northern entrance to Shannon, forcing passengers covered in glass to escape from an emergency hatch in the roof.
Thirty-nine people were on board the Tranzit service heading north from Wellington. Six were taken to Palmerston North Hospital with minor to moderate injuries.
Palmerston North Hospital spokesman Dennis Geddis said all of the six people taken to the hospital last night had been discharged after being treated for minor injuries.
Those on board spoken to by the Manawatu Standard said the bus hit the guardrail of a narrow bridge on State Highway 57 before toppling over about 6pm yesterday.
It landed on its right side, smashing windows. Passengers clambered to safety from an emergency exit.
Three Hato Paora College pupils, Kahura Moke, 14, Toronge Ashton, 16, and Arumaki Strickland, 17, were praised for helping others off the bus.
Arumaki and Toronge said they were asleep before the crash.
"I just remember slipping off the chairs," Toronge said.
"We were the last to get off. We helped people get out . . . some were on the floor."
The three were travelling from Wellington and would be back at school today.
"We are just grateful that they are safe," said Hato Paora principal Debra Marshall-Lobb, who was on hand to collect them.
The Shannon crash was one of a number on the country's roads at the weekend. Seven people died in crashes near Rotorua, Waihou, Waimate and Whangaparaoa.
A Madge Coachlines bus transporting elderly patients collided with a van at 4pm yesterday near Riverbank Rd, Otaki. A driver of one of the vehicles was taken to hospital.
Diahn Strickland, 14, was also heading back to school after the Shannon crash. She is a boarder at Tu Toa in Palmerston North and spent the weekend in Porirua.
"We were driving and I'm sure a car was coming and we swerved. We fell off the side of the road. Everyone just fell on to the glass and then it broke," Diahn said.
"I thought we were going to die."
Awhina Anderson, 13, who was staying with Diahn, suffered a cut hand and said she could hear people screaming in the aftermath.
"I saw a big truck coming on the bridge and [the bus] must have lost control."
Juliette Hendry, 19, was on her way to New Plymouth from Wellington. "I was sitting in the back with three young girls and a woman. She was just coming back from her brother's funeral. He died in a car crash.
"I had to deal with her shock before I dealt with mine," Ms Hendry said.
"The bus rolled over on its side. It was skidding on the grass and I was like, please don't fall over.
"The girls were crushing me and it was like, can those girls get off me?"
After the crash, those on board were taken by ambulance and police cars to the Club Hotel in Shannon, where a triage centre was set up by St John medics.
Ms Hendry said she wanted a beer but bus passengers were told to stay off the alcohol.
Instead busy hotel staff served drinks and hot chips to calm the nerves before a replacement bus turned up for passengers to continue their journey, minus luggage, which would probably be returned later.
Some people nursed bumps and bruises with ice packs, others held on tightly to mugs of hot liquid.
Bar manager Rachel Dalton remembered similar scenes about 15 years ago when the hotel helped those involved in a train crash.
Police Sergeant Gina Atkinson said the serious crash unit was investigating and it was too early to say if other vehicles were involved or if any charges would be laid.
"When I arrived, the first thing I wanted to do was to get people that weren't injured out of the cold, because it was very cold and windy and obviously being in a crash like that, where a bus rolled over, I was thinking about shock and trauma," Ms Atkinson said.
"I'm just pleased that no-one's seriously injured and everyone's walked away."
A crane was called to right the bus and police were to inspect its mechanics, she said.
Traffic was diverted off SH57 until the scene was cleared.
St John Manawatu district operations manager Steve Yanko said four or five ambulances were at the scene and medics were treating about 20 "walking wounded" in addition to those hospitalised.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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