Driver charged after pair lose limbs in horror bus crash

A man has been charged with careless driving causing injury following a bus crash in which a girl and woman lost limbs.

Emergency services arrived at the crash yesterday about 1.45pm, on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd, 7km southwest of Queenstown, where a bus had rolled on to its side.

The Otago Daily Times understands a girl lost both hands in the crash and a woman lost one hand.

Otago Lakes Area Commander Inspector Olaf Jensen said a 32-year-old man has been charged with careless driving causing injury following the crash.

Those on board the bus, including the driver, were all foreign nationals from China.

The man was expected to appear in the Queenstown District Court on Monday, January 27.

A representative from Awing Travel NZ Ltd, the company which operated the bus, said this morning he was driving to Christchurch and could not comment on the crash or the condition of the injured passengers.

A Southern District Health Board spokeswoman told the Otago Daily Times this afternoon one patient was flown from the scene to Dunedin Hospital, and one flown to Christchurch Hospital.

Three people were transported to Lakes District Hospital, and one of those was transported by ambulance to Dunedin Hospital later on Tuesday night.

As of this afternoon, both patients in Dunedin Hospital were in a stable condition, she said. 

St John said in total, 20 people were injured, but most of those injuries were minor and didn't need hospital treatment.

The Chinese Consul General has visited an injured person in Christchurch Hospital. A spokesperson said two patients' injuries were serious but not life-threatening. He said the Consulate was providing all the assistance it could to the patients and their families.

Police, along with MFAT, the Chinese Consulate, and the tour bus operator, continued to work to support those involved.

The remaining passengers were transported back to their accommodation in Queenstown last night and arrangements were being made by their tour company regarding their return to China.  

Emergency services at the scene of a serious crash on the Queenstown-Glenorchy Rd, near Queenstown, yesterday afternoon. Photos: Tracey Roxburgh
Emergency services at the scene of a serious crash on the Queenstown-Glenorchy Rd, near Queenstown, yesterday afternoon. Photos: Tracey Roxburgh
Insp Jensen said yesterday there were 23 international tourists on board, and some had received ‘‘quite significant injuries’’.

‘‘It's a traumatic scene,’’ he said. ‘‘There are people with quite traumatic injuries.’’

He confirmed one vehicle towing a trailer was involved but said it was too early to speculate about the cause.

Insp Jensen today reminded people to take "extra care" on Southern roads which were especially busy during the summer when domestic and foreign tourists flocked to the region.

"Driving any vehicle can be life-threatening if you’re not being responsible. So we want people to stay focused when they’re behind the wheel or on their bike.

"Watch your speed and your following distances, stay focused - put your phone out of reach - wear your seatbelt, and always driver sober and alert.

"We want everybody to get safely to their loved ones and their holiday destinations."

A Queenstown resident, who did not want to be named, was driving from the resort towards Glenorchy and witnessed the aftermath of the crash.

He said there were ‘‘emotional scenes’’ while fire crews, police and medics helped the injured.

‘‘I came around the corner and the bus was on its side. There was glass ... and there was blood.

‘‘There was a bit of carnage on the road and I thought, ‘people have been seriously injured here’. By the look on their faces, you could tell that something horrific had happened.’’

The man, who drove between Queenstown and Glenorchy daily for work, said it was a dangerous stretch of road.

The bus carrying Chinese tourists that was involved in the crash.
The bus carrying Chinese tourists that was involved in the crash.

Two helicopters, three ambulances and a manager had attended the crash.

Traffic was severely backed up while the road remained closed for crews to work at the scene with heavy lifting equipment needed to right the bus. It reopened again last night.

Insp Jensen acknowledged the response from motorists and Wilson Bay residents who were on the scene before emergency services arrived.

A second resident described seeing the walking wounded at the scene being treated by St John.

She said the bus and luggage trailer had gone on to their sides and blocked both sides of the road.

The windscreen was smashed, but that could have been done by rescuers.

‘‘It doesn't actually look that damaged,’’ the resident said.

The bus crashed on a section of straight road after a ‘‘very sharp’’ bend.

There had been crashes on the bend before, but they mostly happened in winter.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman said it received reports of the crash near Wilsons Bay at 1.50pm.

Three appliances from Queenstown, one appliance from Frankton and a Frankton support vehicle attended.

Crews arrived at the scene to a bus on its side. No-one was trapped.

The Serious Crash Unit and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Team were advised.



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