By Steve Lambert and Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press
Dashcam footage seized from a transport truck that collided with a minibus full of seniors, killing 15, shows the bus pulled into the lane where the truck had the right-of-way, Manitoba RCMP said Friday.
“We don’t know why the bus proceeded into the (truck’s) lane,” Supt. Rob Lasson told a news conference.
Lasson said they have not yet spoken with the driver of the bus, who remains in hospital along with nine other survivors of the fiery collision on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Winnipeg on Thursday.
Lasson stressed that the investigation is early and officers are still examining the mechanics of the vehicles, speeds and other potential factors.
“We are not assigning culpability or laying any blame at this time,” he said.
The truck driver has been released from hospital, added Lasson.
He said those who were on the bus headed for a day at a casino ranged in age from 58 to 88, and 19 were women while six were men.
Chief medical examiner John Younes said work continues on identifying the victims, using fingerprints, dental records and, if necessary, serial numbers on artificial hips and even DNA.
“The reason we have to undertake scientific means of identification is that most if not all of the deceased have significant facial trauma, so identifying them visually is not possible,” said Younes.
He said authorities hope to have post-mortem examinations done by Monday and identifications completed by the middle of next week.
Earlier Friday, hospital officials said six of the 10 in hospital were in critical condition, and that most of the survivors had head injuries and broken bones.
They were among a group of seniors from Dauphin and the surrounding area on a trip to the Sand Hills Casino, when their minibus crashed with the semi-trailer near Carberry, 170 kilometres west of Winnipeg.
“This is an elderly cohort of patients, so recoveries will be long and, of course, can be complicated,” Dr. Shawn Young, chief operating officer of Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, told an earlier news conference Friday.
In Dauphin, flags were at half-mast as residents awaited word on the fate of loved ones.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty right now,” Brad Michaleski, the provincial legislature member for Dauphin, said in an interview. “We’re just trying to get a handle on how large an issue is this for our area and we’re patiently waiting (on) RCMP.”
The bus had 25 people on board and departed from the Dauphin Active Living Centre.
Sandra Kaleta, who is involved with the seniors centre, said she had considered going on the bus Thursday.
“I don’t know why I changed my mind,” Kaleta said. “I just did.”
She said she knew some of the people on the bus and played Scrabble every Tuesday with one of them.
“I have no idea how she is,” said Kaleta. “I think that’s the hardest part. I can’t imagine what some of these families are going through.”
Kaleta said she recalled everyone feeling excited about going to the casino. It wasn’t a trip that happened often and the last one may have been before the COVID-19 pandemic, she added.
“It’s going to take years, not just days or months (to recover).”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 16, 2023.
— With files from Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg and Dean Bennett in Edmonton