A tour bus crash at Grand Teton National Park injured two dozen passengers, including eight who spent the night in area hospitals, but a much more serious tragedy was averted by a lack of traffic on the highway linking the park to Yellowstone National Park.
'This could have been so much worse," Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said Friday. "There was no oncoming traffic. They were northbound. When the bus went over, it was sliding completely down the road. No cars, no oncoming traffic. No southbound traffic. Can you imagine? They would have had no place to go."
A cause for the accident, which occurred just after 4 p.m. Thursday, had not immediately been determined. Officials were looking into whether driver-error was responsible, whether the driver was trying to avoid an animal that darted across the road, or whether mechanical problems were involved.
The highway linking the two parks is a relatively narrow two-lane stretch of pavement that courses through lodgepole pine forests that in most areas come right down to the road's shoulders.
Twenty-four people, most if not all from the People's Republic of China, were transported by three Grand Teton ambulances, a Jackson Hole Fire/EMS ambulance and a Grand Teton Lodge Company passenger van to receive medical care at St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming. Two seriously injured passengers were flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls via two EIRMC life-flight helicopters that were able to land near the accident site. Ms. Skaggs said Friday that the two passengers flown to the Idaho hospital were in fair condition Friday, though she didn't have details on their injuries.
The bus was carrying 26 passengers plus the driver.
The crash of the 33-foot-long bus closed Highway 89/287 between Colter Bay and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway for nearly five hours Thursday afternoon/evening. Motorists traveling between Grand Teton and Yellowstone were diverted to Jackson Lake Lodge and Colter Bay Village during the highway closure. Southbound motorists were sent to Headwaters Lodge and Cabins at Flagg Ranch and Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park to wait out the travel delay.
The vehicle wreckage was cleared and Grand Teton rangers reopened the highway at 9:10 p.m. Thursday. Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers and Grand Teton National Park rangers are jointly conducting an accident investigation.
Ms. Skaggs didn't know which tour company was leading the trip, though the bus was owned by Roaming America Travel, she said.