British tourists 'critical' after Nevada coach crash

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The Independent US

A group of 40 mostly elderly British package tourists were scattered across hospitals in the western United States yesterday after their coach lurched across a remote stretch of desert highway and flipped over, injuring everyone on board, some of them severely.

A group of 40 mostly elderly British package tourists were scattered across hospitals in the western United States yesterday after their coach lurched across a remote stretch of desert highway and flipped over, injuring everyone on board, some of them severely.

Several of the passengers suffered broken bones, cuts and serious skin abrasions on their arms and legs after being dragged sideways along the road for more than 200 feet. One 72-year-old woman from Derby had parts of both arms amputated below the elbow in an all-night operation at the University Medical Centre in Las Vegas, and at least four others were described last night as being in a serious condition.

Although nobody was expected to die from their injuries, more than half of the passengers had to be flown in a combination of military and emergency service helicopters and planes to hospitals far from the crash site, near Tonopah in central Nevada.

The group, travelling with the tour operator Archers Direct, was on the 10th day of a two-week holiday through America when the coach crash en route from Las Vegas to the Mammoth Lakes mountain resort in the Californian Sierras.

Their £1,100 a head "Western Wonders USA" tour had started in San Francisco before taking in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and the Grand Canyon.

They were heading west on Route 6, about 20 miles out of Tonopah, when the bus apparently lurched on to the wrong side of the road and then flipped over as the driver yanked the steering wheel to try to correct his course. No other vehicles appeared to be involved.

Richard James, a spokesman for the Nevada Highway Patrol, said: "The driver for an unknown reason went off the road, crossing both lanes and went off the left-hand shoulder of the highway. He over-corrected to the right and the bus overturned on to its left side and slid for about 200 feet."

The coach lay stretched helplessly across the highway all afternoon and all night while the injured were prized out of doors and smashed window frames. Medical helicopters went to the scene to remove passengers as soon as they were freed. The nine worst affected were taken to Las Vegas. Another 17 were ferried to the Washoe Medical Centre in Reno, at the other end of Nevada. Both cities are at least four hours by car from the crash site.

Some of the injured did not reach hospital for eight hours or more. Of the 41 people on board, 39 were tourists, one was a representative of Archers Direct, and one was the driver. At least 36 people were taken to hospital, according to Rick Plummer of the University Medical Centre in Las Vegas, and at least half of them were expected to stay in care for more than one night.

Mr Plummer said last night that two of his patients were in intensive care - the 72-year-old amputee and a 46-year-old man, also from Derby.

In Reno, three patients were said to be in intensive care. Another 12 were described as "satisfactory" and the other two were released.

A spokeswoman for the Washoe Medical Centre said many of the patients had suffered scraping, severe abrasions and broken bones. She was not sure if there were any internal injuries or head injuries, both conditions commonly associated with crashes of this type.

A doctor at the Nye Medical Centre said six of the victims were being treated there. Others with minor injuries had checked into a local hotel, the Station House Inn in Tonopah.

Last night the first group of relatives from Britain were due to arrive in Nevada to join the injured, with more expected to follow today.

The Foreign Office confirmed that British consulate officials were making their way from Los Angeles and San Francisco to visit the injured.

Archers Direct has set up an emergency helpline number for relatives on 020 8313 3016.

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