A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, Vol. 17, No. 209
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bus scene
Cruz Roja/Rodolfo Matiew
Rescue crews work to free the injured from the wreckage.
Costa Ricans pull together in face of bus disaster
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The response Thursday to a bus disaster showed the country at its best. Not only did the Cruz Roja, fire fighters, hospital workers and police demonstrate their training, but even farm workers and hotel employees pitched in.

The mishap claimed 12 lives and injured the rest of the 31 persons on the bus. The northbound bus went out of control on a two-lane highway known for dangerous curves just a kilometer short of  Cariblanco in the mountains north of Heredia.

The bus passengers were Universidad Nacional retirees who were planning to do social work on a native reserve near Guatuso. They experienced some seconds of panic as the bus weaved to both sides of the highway before it slipped off a steep drop and rolled.

The crash tore the roof off the bus and exposed the dead and injured inside.

The Cruz Roja rescue workers faced a confusing situation as they arrived. So did fire fighters who frequently respond to such incidents.

The injured were sorted, and those severely hurt were transported to the Hospital de San Carlos or by air to other hospitals. Others were treated temporarily at the scene.

At Hospital México in La Uruca, the medical staff and attendants were participating in a disaster drill involving helicopter transportation. So there were plenty of hands when the five of the most badly hurt began arriving by helicopter. Two patients went to Hospital San Juan de Dios in San José.

Some of the air transportation was by private medical helicopters whose crews pitched in.

One woman victim died after arrival at the San Carlos hospital. There were four men and seven women dead at the scene. Judicial investigators said later they were having

Cruz Roja/Rodolfo Matiew
Crash tore the roof off bus.

trouble verifying names of the dead because most of the passengers did not carry identification. By late evening the Morgue Judicial said that all but one person, a woman, had been identified. The youngest was 42 and the oldest was 85.

Many of the dead suffered severe head injuries as the bus rolled down a slope that was estimated to be about 40 meters, about 130 feet, and the impact tore off the roof.

Even before the last of the injured were removed from the scene, the call went out for blood. The Banco Nacional de Sangre said that the immediate need for blood was met in a short time as donors showed up. But staffers said they would work Saturday, too.

The government has declared three days of national mourning. President Luis Guillermo Solís ordered that the nation’s flags be flown at half staff for three days, starting Thursday.

The driver of the commercial bus has not been identified. A Universidad Nacional official said that the trip was a private one arranged by an association of retirees. The group left from Heredia Cento.

The investigation most certainly will include a detailed study of the bus steering system as well as the brakes.

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