By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
“A GENUINE accident” is how Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar described the tour bus crash in Eleuthera that occurred on Monday, leaving more than a dozen people injured – but with no fatalities.
Speaking to reporters yesterday outside Cabinet, Mr D’Aguilar said the driver lost control of the vehicle, but authorities do not yet know what caused the accident. He added he does not expect this incident to “blemish” Eleuthera as a destination.
Both Mr D’Aguilar and Health Minister Dr Duane Sands praised the “phenomenal response” from officials in Eleuthera, the United States, and New Providence in responding to the incident, which left 16 persons injured and six with serious injuries.
Chief Superintendent Craig Stubbs told The Tribune yesterday the investigation is continuing.
“There (is) no additional information,” CSP Stubbs said. “We will wait the reconstruction report of the crash to determine causation and any other factors in concluding the investigations.”
CSP Stubbs declined to confirm when the report will be completed, saying, “Once we have all the information to conclude our investigations, we will inform the media.”
According to reports, the accident occurred around 11am in Rock Sound.
The Tribune understands the tour bus involved belongs to Eleuthera Adventure Tours Limited, which was giving guests from the Princess Cays cruise ship a tour of the southern part of the island when the incident occurred.
“Naturally I was extremely concerned yesterday when we heard about the accident,” Mr D’Aguilar said. “God was definitely on our side, in the sense that we had no causalities. And I am so delighted that the situation wasn’t worse than it was.
“I think this was just a genuine accident,” he continued. “I think that a vehicle for whatever reason, the driver lost control of the vehicle, we don’t know why yet. And it was just an accident. That’s just what it is was. Accidents happen. And obviously we try to take as many steps to mitigate these accidents, but you know I don’t think that this will put a blemish or a black mark on the destination.
“I just think it’s an accident that can happen anywhere at any time to anybody. And thankfully there were no fatalities and hopefully everybody is getting first class medical care to try and rectify any injuries that they incurred.”
Photos of the accident circulating on social media show skid marks and broken branches strewn across the road, with the tour bus overturned in bushes, laying on top of broken trees and uprooted plants.
The injured were taken to the Rock Sound Community Clinic by EMS personnel for treatment; however those who sustained more serious injuries were airlifted from the island for further care.
Dr Sands spoke of the accident yesterday outside Cabinet.
“We have two patients that would have come into New Providence,” he said. “Four would have been airlifted into Ft Lauderdale. Of those patients that were admitted to hospital, one at (Princess Margaret Hospital), one at Doctors (Hospital), I’m advised that both patients are stable and we expect that the remaining American patients should be returned home today.”
Dr Sands said a total of 32 people were on the bus.
“We had just a phenomenal response from the team on the ground - EMS in Eleuthera, from doctors and nurses on the ground in Eleuthera, from all over the Southern and Central Eleuthera. Air ambulance, the US Coast Guard,” he said. “We also had phenomenal response from (PMH), Doctors Hospital, EMS on the ground here.
“It demonstrated an absolute, fine example of what teamwork in the setting of the last casualty event. We don’t want to see this type of thing, but we do know that certainly our teams are capable of handling it.”
Mr D’Aguilar expressed similar appreciation for those who assisted, adding the response time was “very impressive”.
“It was a horrible situation, but I think we emerged relatively unscathed,” he added.
When asked if his ministry will push for improvements to health care facilities on Family Islands, Mr D’Aguilar replied: “You know it’s very, very difficult. Obviously you’re going to have these calamities that involve a lot of people. And the Family Islands…it’s always very difficult for them to process and deal with that many all at once. So, you know I think we got the air assets in place very, very quickly and people were very expeditiously moved onto a destination where they could receive first-class healthcare.”
Florida’s WSVN reported yesterday that of the four people airlifted to Florida, three sustained serious injuries.
“(Broward Sheriff’s Fire Rescue) officials said three of the four patients suffered serious injuries that included limb fractures, internal injuries and possible paralysis,” according to the WSVN article. “The fourth patient suffered minor injuries.”
Later, it was reported the patient with a “severe paralysis” is “actually now demonstrating signs of improvement”, according to Broward Health Medical Centre Dr Jose Lozada.
“I’m pretty optimistic that everyone will do quite well,” he said.
WSVN added as of Tuesday afternoon, the remaining patients at the hospital are said to be in fair condition and another victim was released from the hospital.