First responders recall ‘horrific’ scene at fatal tour bus crash near Bryce Canyon

Southern Utah News

BRYCE CANYON, Utah (ABC4 News) – Four people died and twelve others remain hospitalized with critical or serious injuries after a tour bus carrying Chinese tourists crashed near Bryce Canyon National Park Friday morning, officials said, adding that the death toll could rise.

The names of the four individuals who died were released Saturday night. They are three women: Ling Geng, 68, Xiuyun Chen, 67 and Zhang Caiyu, 62 and one man: ZhongLiang Qiu. , 65. All victims are from Shanghai, China, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.

ABC4’s Katie Karalis was on scene at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George Saturday, where 5 passengers are in critical condition and 5 others are in serious condition as of 11:30 a.m. She also spoke with a first responder on scene, who said emergency crews came together like a family to comfort the 31 injured despite the language barrier.

“It was my understanding that people were flying from the bus,” first responder Jim Neilson said. “I don’t get very emotional often, but I stood there with a couple of guys that lost their wives. They didn’t know each other, but both of their wives were dead. There was debris everywhere.”

UHP said troopers received calls shortly after 11:30 a.m. Friday that a tour bus crashed along Mile Post 10 along Highway 12.

Sgt. Nick Street said the bus was on its way to Bryce Canyon, and the driver, a Chinese American, drifted off the road to the right and over-corrected. The bus rolled once, landing on the guardrail, and not all passengers had been wearing their seat belts, Street said.

Photos Courtesy of Jim Neilson

Street told ABC4 News that it doesn’t appear that the driver was intoxicated and has been cooperating with police.

“This is a tragic scene, and we’ve got to do our due diligence to investigate it properly,” Street said. “Please remember it will take some time.”

UHP said multiple air ambulances and dispatch crews arrived on scene and SR 12 closed for several hours before reopening Friday evening.

Neilson said he didn’t believe all the passengers knew each other — they were simply on the same tour. He said many emergency personnel put blankets on the wounded, trying to comfort them, and some of the women were coming around and praying.

Mike Sarles, a volunteer firefighter with Panguitch City Fire, is fluent in Chinese and accompanied many of the injured to hospitals to help translate, Nielson said.

A 10-member team with the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the cause of the crash as of Saturday evening, and any details have yet to be released, according to UHP.

UHP authorities believe the bus is registered to America Shengjia Inc. located in Monterey Park, Calif. ABC 4 News has investigated government records about the bus company from Utah Division of Corporations & Commercial Code as well as Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Two drivers and two vehicles are registered, and the company has had no critical violations from its 11 inspections over the past two years, according to records.

This is developing story. We will continue to provide updates as details are released.

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