Saturday, August 4, 2001

Police officers examine the wreck of a Jack's Tours bus
that crashed into a drainage ditch on the Volcano Highway
in Glenwood on the Big Island yesterday.

Bus crash injures 19

The accident south of Hilo leaves
4 in critical condition

The tour bus carrying 18 Japanese tourists
swerved to miss a car and plunged into a ditch

By Rod Thompson and Lisa Asato

HILO >> Nineteen people were injured, two of them seriously, when a tour bus swerved to avoid a car and ran into a ditch south of Hilo yesterday, police said.

The 24-seat bus owned by Jack's Tours, with 18 passengers and the driver on board, was heading uphill to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Volcano Highway at 12:15 p.m. when a car turned in front of the bus at Glenwood Road, police said. All the passengers were tourists from Japan.

A Hilo Medical Center nursing supervisor, who declined to give her name, said four of the tourists, including a couple, were transferred to The Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu in critical condition.

Art Three patients, including the driver, were in stable condition late last night at Hilo Medical Center in stable condition. The remaining tourists were treated and released, she said.

The injuries ranged from bruises and cuts to serious head injuries, Lt. James Kelly said.

A Queen's Medical Center nursing supervisor said a 34-year-old woman arrived last night and was in stable condition, and a 76-year-old man was listed as critical. She did not give further details on their conditions.

Acting fire Capt. Warren Sumida said four ambulances and a Jack's Tours van took all 19 people to Hilo Medical Center, about 23 miles away.

A helicopter dispatched to the scene could not get through because of rain and fog, he said.

The president of the Hilo-based tour company, Carol Miyashiro, reached at the hospital's emergency room last night, said she could give no details about the passengers, referring inquiries to police.

Miyashiro said she came to the hospital to help injured passengers.

Fire officials said it was rainy and wet at the time of the accident.

The crash jammed the bus doors shut, and all 19 people were extracted through the back window, Sumida said.

The 29-year-old driver of the tour bus was pinned behind the steering wheel and was removed on a spine board, Sumida said.

Police did not immediately identify the driver, who was described in stable condition at the hospital after being treated for a fractured right leg and other injuries.

The bus driver "was trying to avoid a car that was making a left turn when he hit his brakes," said Eric Inouye, owner of Hirano Store, a few hundred yards from the crash site.

Inouye said he did not see the accident but talked with witnesses as he watched the rescue effort.

The 26-year-old woman driving the car was not injured.

Ben Alonzo, whose tow truck was called to the scene, said he saw blood inside the bus when he arrived.

An emergency medical technician attends to two
injured Japanese tourists after the crash of a Jack's
Tours bus in Glenwood yesterday. These two
were among the last of the injured to be removed
from the accident scene.

Rain was falling heavily at the time, he said.

The bus, which he described as similar to a large van, was apparently following another vehicle as they drove on Volcano Highway, he said. The vehicle ahead of the bus slowed to make a left turn off the highway at South Glenwood Road, and the bus apparently did not have enough time to slow with it, he said.

The driver then apparently swerved to the right to avoid the car and went into a ditch, finally crashing into a culvert off North Glenwood Road, which enters the highway from the right, he said.

Alonzo found the front of the bus damaged but the remainder in good shape.

By the time he arrived, medics had freed the driver, initially trapped by the crash.

Some passengers were able to leave the bus by an emergency door in the back, but others were too injured to move, he said.

He said the tour bus did not have seat belts.

One ambulance responded from Kilauea Military Camp at the Volcanoes park, and two others came from Hilo, Alonzo said.

At least four motorists stopped and also helped. They appeared knowledgeable about what to do, covering the injured to keep them warm, and in at least one case assisting medics in giving intravenous fluids, he said.

Sumida also said passersby were assisting the injured when firefighters arrived about 25 minutes after the accident.

The crash happened about 10 miles from the entrance to the park, one of the islands' most popular tourist attractions.

The highway is the only route into the park.

Jack's Tours conducts same-day round-trip excursions from Honolulu to the slopes of Kilauea Volcano, which has been erupting continuously since Jan. 3, 1983.

Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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