By Matt Pearce
5:50 PM PST, December 30, 2012
Nine passengers are dead after a charter bus returning to Vancouver from Las Vegas veered off an icy road Sunday in northeast Oregon and tumbled hundreds of feet down a hill, officials said.
Oregon State Police said the charter bus was carrying about 40 passengers west on Interstate 84 when the driver lost control in the ice and snow sometime before 10:30 a.m. None of the names, nor the name of the bus company, were expected to be released Sunday.
At least 18 more passengers were injured and taken to St. Anthony Hospital, about a dozen miles away in Pendleton. Police said the driver survived, "but investigators have not been able to speak to this person because of severity of injuries and medical care."
The tough terrain in the area, near a place known as Immigrant Hill, hampered the rescue. Emergency workers had to form rope teams to recover survivors, officials said. Photos from the scene by the East Oregonian showed the bus resting upright with its top partially sheared off.
Officials said the nine killed were declared dead at the scene.
Larry Blanc, spokesman for the hospital, didn't know the current condition of the survivors at the hospital but told the Los Angeles Times, "We’ve been very busy with CAT scans, X-rays, that type of thing, and we do have surgeons on duty that have been in surgery."
Some of the survivors were ambulatory. “I’ve seen some that have been standing and walking into the triage area" at the hospital, Blanc said.
He said that the hospital initiated a "disaster code" after it received word of the crash about a dozen miles away and that the Red Cross would be setting up places for the survivors to stay.
The crash was the second to occur Sunday morning on Interstate 84 in northeast Oregon. State police said a 69-year-old man died when the Ford F-350 pickup he was riding in hit an icy stretch of road and rolled over two and a half times.
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