PENDLETON, Ore. — The stretch of rural Oregon interstate where a tour bus crashed through a guardrail and plummeted 100 feet down a steep embankment is so notorious that state transportation officials have published a specific advisory warning of its dangers.
Nine people were killed and more than two dozen injured when the charter bus veered out of control around 10:30 a.m. Sunday on snow- and ice-covered lanes of Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon, according to Oregon State Police.
The bus crashed near the start of a 7-mile section of road winding down a hill. It came to rest at the bottom of a snowy slope, landing beaten and battered but upright with little or no debris visible around the crash site.
The East Oregonian said it spoke with two South Korean passengers, ages 16 and 17. Both said through a translator that they were seated near the rear of the bus when it swerved a few times, hit the guardrail and flipped. They described breaking glass and seeing passengers pinned by their seats as the bus slid down the hill. Both said that they feared for their lives.
The paper said that the teens, one of whom injured a knee and the other suffered a broken collarbone, were staying at a hotel arranged by the Red Cross.
A hospital official says it appears 46 people were aboard the bus.
Larry Blanc, a spokesman for St. Anthony Hospital in nearby Pendleton, said Monday that 14 of those aboard remain at St. Anthony, one in serious condition. Seven were discharged Sunday and are in the care of the Red Cross.
Blanc says 16 people were sent to other hospitals in the region, including the Oregon Health & Science University hospital in Portland.
Lt. Gregg Hastings said the bus crashed along the west end of the Blue Mountains, and west of an area called Deadman Pass. The area is well known locally for its hazards, and the state transportation department advises truck drivers that some of the most changeable and severe weather conditions in the Northwest can lead to slick conditions and poor visibility. Drivers are urged to use extreme caution and defensive driving techniques, and warned that snow and black ice are common in the fall through the spring.