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At least 4 dead, multiple critical injuries in tour bus crash outside of Bryce Canyon National Park  1 Month ago

Source:   USA Today  

At least four people are dead and multiple others critically injured after a tour bus with a driver and 30 passengers aboard crashed outside Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.

Multiple air ambulances and rescue crews responded to the crash on State Route 12, the main highway to the entrance of the park, which is located in central Utah.

The highway was closed and officials asked motorists to avoid the area if possible to make room for emergency vehicles, according to the Utah Highway Patrol's Twitter account.

As many as 17 people were injured, authorities said. Five of the injured remained in critical condition, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said Friday evening.

The bus originated in Southern California, he said, and the tourists on board were natives of mainland China.

The bus was traveling east around 11:30 a.m. when it rolled off the road and crashed into a guardrail, according to the Garfield County Sheriff's Office. The injured were transferred to multiple area hospitals.

Friday afternoon, the bus sat on its tires at the crash scene, but its destructive path across the roadway was clear. Its top was crushed, windows were shattered and luggage and other debris was strewn across State Route 12.

Emergency personnel were at the scene along with some interpreters. Several bodies appeared to still lay on the asphalt, where they were covered in blankets.

Street said the driver was Chinese-American but all of the passengers were believed to be Chinese nationals. He said the UHP was working with the Chinese consulate to inform the victims' family members before any names could be released.

Street said investigators were searching receipts and cameras inside the bus to learn more about the tour group, where it was coming from and where it was headed. The driver was injured but is able to cooperate with the investigation, Street said.

A reverse-911 message was sent to residents in Garfield County and some other surrounding areas asking if Chinese-speaking translators would be available to help at the scene.

Garfield Memorial Hospital in the nearby town of Panguitch had received 17 patients as of 3 p.m., according to Intermountain Healthcare. Three were in critical condition, 11 in serious condition and three in fair condition, according to an update from the hospital’s Twitter account.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced that a 10-member team would arrive at the crash site on Saturday to investigate the accident. The agency would cooperate with UHP, which was slated to conduct its own investigation as well.

The bus was registered to a company called America Shengjai, based in Ontario, California.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation records, America Shengjai operates two buses. Neither had been involved in any crashes, nor had they been cited for major safety violations.

Company officials could not be reached by phone Friday afternoon.

The crash happened near a highway rest stop about 7 miles from the park entrance. Bryce Canyon is known for its distinctive red-rock landscapes and is located 300 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Tour buses are a common sight at Bryce Canyon, with tours often starting in Las Vegas or Salt Lake City. Other occasional stops include nearby parks like Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon.

A similar bus crash happened on the same highway in 2010, killing three tourists and injuring 11 in a rollover at one of the points where the winding highway curves toward the national park.

Investigators at the time said the driver had been distracted or drowsy as he lost control and drove a bus full of Japanese tourists off the roadway, according to the Associated Press.

That group was part of a tour that started in Las Vegas and had made an earlier stop at the nearby Zion National Park in southern Utah.

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