A bus traveling near the small town of Arthur’s Pass in New Zealand’s South Island was involved in an accident on New Year’s Eve after smashing into another vehicle, yielding at least a dozen injuries. The bus, which was transporting 36 tourists on a sightseeing excursion en route to Christchurch from Franz Josef, rolled over onto its side after colliding with a van. The incident took place on State Highway 73 in the Otira Gorge region, about a half-mile from Windy Point.
People driving by stopped to help those trapped on the bus until first responders arrived on scene. Some witnesses were medical professionals such as nurses, which ranger Chris Stewart from the New Zealand Department of Conservation reported saying was “really lucky” for the injured people in need of immediate aid. Stewart also stated that the van sustained severe damage, and that the vehicle had to be pried open with the jaws of life in order to reach those trapped inside. Several injured parties were transported to Christchurch Hospital via helicopter, while others were taken via ambulance to Gray Base Hospital in nearby Greymouth. Three of the people who were hurt in the crash were reported as having sustained potentially life-threatening wounds.
The people traveling in the van were reportedly European tourists doing some sightseeing in New Zealand, while those on board the bus included a New Zealand native driver and tourists from Asia. Although the identities of the injured have not been released to the public, reports state that the ages of the injured parties range from 20s to 50s, and at least two of those hurt in the crash were women. The uninjured passengers were transported to Greymouth by police who were on scene.
The roadway was closed for several hours and detours were put in place as investigators came in to survey the scene. The exact cause of the accident is not yet known, but mechanical malfunction of the bus may have played a role. Drivers were diverted through Lewis Pass until the Arthur’s Pass crash site could be cleared.