Bus trip over mountains turned fatal
September 29, 2009
An express bus traveling over the mountains in northern Oppland County ran off the road during an early autumn snowfall on Tuesday. One passenger was killed and several injured, and they all had to wait for help in the dark and wintry conditions. The bus’ driver has since been cited for negligence.
The bus from Nor-Way Bussexpress had 40 passengers on board when its driver lost control on slippery roads near Grotli in the township of Skjåk. The bus was traveling on Highway 15 over the mountains called Strynefjellet when the accident occurred at about 4:30am.
“One person was pinned under the bus,” Knut Westby, operations leader from the Gudbrandsdal Police District, told Aftenposten.no. “I can confirm that the person was killed.” The victim was a 21-year-old asylum seeker from Nigeria. Several other passengers also were foreigners living in or visiting Norway.
No other vehicles were involved in the accident. The bus was on its way from Oslo to Ørsta/Volda and most of its passengers were reportedly sleeping when the bus ran off the road between Otta and Stryn.
Five passengers were injured, two of them seriously. They were taken to hospital with fractures and other injuries. The others were taken to the town of Skjåk where they were cared for Tuesday morning by a crisis team.
Police said the bad weather led to difficult driving conditions. It also forced the passengers to wait for help because air ambulances couldn’t fly in the snowstorm. The first air ambulance didn’t arrive until 7am, two and a half hours after the accident occurred. A journalist from local news websitegd.no, who was among the first to reach the scene, reported that most of the passengers were wet and chilled.
It wasn’t initially clear whether snow tires had already been installed on the bus, owned by Fjord1 Buss Møre. Its managing director Magne Hetle told Aftenposten that he didn’t know, and was most concerned with assisting passengers. “It’s up to the police to determine the cause of the accident,” he said.
The police later determined that the bus didn’t have winter tires on its front wheels, only in the back. They seized the driver’s license and charged him with negligence for failing to be better prepared for winter conditions.
Snow has been falling at high elevations for a week or so, while much of the rest of southern Norway has been basking in sunshine. Many townships don’t allow snow tires to be installed on vehicles until early November, to avoid wear and tear on the roads. In the mountains, however, snow tires can be necessary from early September.