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RCMP begin interviewing survivors of deadly crash in southwestern Manitoba

Manitoba RCMP say they've started doing interviews with some of the survivors of a crash near Carberry, Man., that killed 15 people last week, when a bus taking a group of seniors to a casino was hit by a semi-trailer truck at a highway intersection.

All 10 survivors from bus remain in hospital, but 1 has moved out of critical care

A semi trailer with a burned front end is pictured. A blackened passenger bus, destroyed by fire, is seen in the grass in the distance.

Manitoba RCMP say they've started doing interviews with some of the survivors of a crash near Carberry, Man., that killed 15 people last week, when a bus taking a group of seniors to a casino was hit by a semi-trailer truck at a highway intersection.

Investigators worked through the weekend, doing difficult interviews as part of a unique crash investigation in which the witnesses were involved in the collision, said Supt. Rob Lasson, officer in charge of Manitoba RCMP major crime services.

"All the witnesses were in the bus, and a lot of them are in trauma right now," Lasson said at a news conference on Monday. "Their brain has been impacted … so we have to give them time to process."

He would not reveal how many of the survivors police spoke to, and said the information investigators learned "can't be divulged at this time" because it's part of the investigation, which will determine whether anyone was at fault in the crash.

Mounties said last week that the bus carrying 25 people was going south on Highway 5, crossing the eastbound lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway, when it was hit by a semi just north of Carberry, a small town about 160 kilometres west of Winnipeg.

Most of the passengers were seniors from in and around the southwestern Manitoba city of Dauphin — which has a population of about 8,000 — on their way to the Sand Hills Casino near Carberry.

Police said they determined the semi had the right of way after reviewing its dashcam footage following the crash.

WATCH | Supt. Rob Lasson on investigation into crash:

RCMP urges patience as crash investigation enters new phase

8 hours ago

Duration 1:42

Officials say their 'methodical' investigation into Thursday's deadly crash near Carberry, Man., will take time.

Lasson said police have not yet spoken with the driver of the bus, who is still hospitalized. Mounties said last week that they had spoken with the semi driver, who had been released from hospital.

A mechanical analysis of both the semi and the bus are ongoing, Lasson said. He did not know if investigators had retrieved an event data recorder from the semi.

Lasson said he doesn't expect to have accurate answers about exactly what happened for weeks or even months.

"Accuracy is paramount — something that will not be sacrificed in the name of expediency," he said.

Another news conference focused on the families affected is expected in the coming days, Lasson said.

1 survivor moved out of critical care

One of the survivors of the crash was moved out of critical care and into a unit a step down within the past day, said Lanette Siragusa, chief executive officer of Shared Health, Manitoba's provincial health agency.

All 10 survivors from the bus — six women and four men, ranging in age from their 60s to their 80s — remain in hospital. There are now five in critical care, Siragusa said at the news conference.

Siragusa said she didn't know how long they're expected to remain in hospital, but there could be "complicating factors" for some because of age.

Mental health services were previously stationed at Dauphin's curling centre, but anyone now seeking those supports should go to the community's city hall for direction on where to go, she said.

The health region is also providing mental health supports in other affected communities, including Carberry, Brandon and Neepawa. Anyone struggling can also call a 24/7 crisis line at 1-888-379-7699, Siragusa said.

An overhead view of a highway intersection. Several vehicles are on the road, and there are large skid and burn marks across the highway.

Lasson said autopsies for those killed in the crash started on Monday, as officials continue working to officially identify the 15 people on the bus who were presumed dead after all 10 survivors in hospital were identified.

Manitoba's chief medical examiner said last week the significant injuries suffered by those who died made it difficult to identify them visually, so strategies like fingerprints, dental records, medical history and DNA comparison would be used.

Review underway: premier

Premier Heather Stefanson, speaking in person about the crash for the first time, said she has instructed Manitoba Health to immediately make resources available for families affected by the tragedy. That includes reimbursements for travel, hotel and food costs as needed.

"So if any of you have to travel for your family's situation, our message to you is that we are here to help you during this difficult time," Stefanson said at the news conference, before asking for a moment of silence for those who died in the crash.

"Right now our province is grieving, and we thank everyone for standing with us during this very difficult time."

Stefanson said a standard internal review, which happens after any incident on Manitoba's highways, is underway. Given the severity of the crash last week, the province is prepared to bring in additional experts as needed, she said.

The premier said she's open to potentially making changes to the highway intersection where the deadly crash happened, but wants to let the review process and the RCMP investigation unfold.

"We don't want to rush this," Stefanson said. "We want to make sure that we get it right."

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