© T.J. Colello - TC Media
A tour bus carrying 21 passengers went off the road near Neils Harbour on Sunday.
The company that owns a tour bus that crashed over the weekend in Cape Breton says it's now focused on making sure the American passengers who were on board get home safely.
In an update provided by Lancaster, Pa.-based Executive Coach Inc. on Tuesday, the company's vice-president Dale McMichael said 11 passengers, who were either uninjured or had minor injuries, are currently able to travel home.
"Some of them have either returned home or are planning to return home ... by air," he stated. "We have arranged for a coach to transport any passengers who are unable or unwilling to fly."
That coach was expected to arrive in Nova Scotia late Tuesday, two days after a tour bus went off the road and rolled onto its side approximately three kilometres south of Neils Harbour on the Cabot Trail. McMichael said they have been told by the RCMP that the bus was found to have no mechanical failures at the time of the accident.
A 70-year-old female passenger — identified by WGAL News 8 in Pennsylvania as Joyce Bower, of Ephrata, Pa. — died from her injuries in hospital Monday. Eight others remained in hospital Tuesday — two are in serious but stable condition in a Halifax hospital, and six are in stable condition in Cape Breton hospitals.
A total of 21 people were on board the bus at the time of the crash and most are believed to be from the Lancaster, Pa., area. The driver has been identified as Bill Westlake of Westlake Tours, based in Lititz, Pa. McMichael described Westlake as one of Executive Coach, Inc.'s most trusted and respected tour partners.
"He received only minor injuries during the crash and has since been released from the hospital," stated McMichael. "He is currently travelling among the various regional hospitals and hotels at which our passengers are, or were, being treated or housed in order to collect and deliver their personal belongings."
Group was on 10-day tour
According to a tour itinerary listed on Westlake Tours website, the passengers were on day six of a 10-day tour of the Maritimes when the bus crashed on the Cabot Trail. The first five days of the tour saw passengers visit Maine, Saint John, N.B., the Bay of Fundy, and various locations in Prince Edward Island. Day six of the tour — described on the itinerary as having "the best scenery of the trip" — began in Port Hastings and was to be a full day touring the Cabot Trail.
The tour departed Lancaster, Pa., on July 8 and was due to return Thursday.
Sunday's crash was the first time an Executive Coach bus has been involved in an accident involving a fatality, according to McMichael, who stated their thoughts and prayers continue to be with the family and friends of everyone involved.
RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae said Tuesday that their investigation into the crash was continuing.