The majority of the victims were seniors from the nearby city of Dauphin, according to Assistant Commissioner Rob Hill, who commands the Manitoba RCMP.
“Sadly, this is a day in Manitoba and across Canada that will be remembered as one of tragedy and incredible sadness,” Hill told reporters Thursday. “There are many people in Dauphin and the surrounding areas who are anxiously awaiting news about a loved one. To all those waiting, I can’t imagine how difficult it is not knowing if the person you love the most will be making it home tonight.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the collision “incredibly tragic.”
“I’m sending my deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones today, and I’m keeping the injured in my thoughts,” he said in a tweet. “I cannot imagine the pain those affected are feeling — but Canadians are here for you.”
Shawn Young, chief operating officer of the Health Sciences Center, a trauma hospital in Winnipeg, told reporters Friday that six of the 10 injured are in critical care at the facility with injuries he called “significant.” He said many of the injuries were orthopedic in nature and had required surgery.
“Age does have a big impact on our ability to withstand injuries like this,” he said. “It will impact their recovery. It will impact their outcomes as well. This is an elderly cohort of patients, so the recoveries will be long, and of course, could be complicated.”
Superintendent Rob Lasson of the Manitoba RCMP Major Crime Services called the scene a “mass casualty situation” that stoked memories of the catastrophic junior hockey team bus crash in Saskatchewan five years ago that killed 16 players, coaches and staffers and injured 13 others.
The April 6, 2018, collision between a tractor-trailer and a bus carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos junior A team was one of the deadliest road crashes in Canadian history. The truck driver pleaded guilty to 29 counts of dangerous operation and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
“Answers will take some time, but I assure you RCMP will get the answers,” Lasson said Thursday. “This incident does have echoes of the tragic collision that happened in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, and we are very much aware of that. We have already linked into the investigators in Saskatchewan who have firsthand experience and are some of the primary investigators in the investigation into the Humboldt crash, who are assisting us right now in any way they can.”
The drivers in Thursday’s collision were being treated in the hospital, Lasson said. The investigation was focusing on the question of who had the right of way.
Canada suffered its deadliest road crash in October 1997, when a bus carrying seniors on a Thanksgiving Day fall foliage tour failed to negotiate a turn in Les Éboulements, Quebec, smashed through a guardrail and plunged 60 feet down a ravine, killing 44.
“I don’t believe we’ve had a mass casualty traffic accident like this in Manitoba,” Lasson said.
Manitoba RCMP officials said all available resources were deployed to the scene. They included forensic analysts who could reconstruct the accident. A support center was established in Dauphin to answer questions for families of the bus passengers.
An earlier version of this article said that 15 people were killed in a Saskatchewan bus crash five years ago. Sixteen were killed. The article has been corrected.