'I told (my daughter) to hold on'

Dave Stewart
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Toronto man, teenager daughter among passengers on bus that tipped over in Travellers Rest Sunday

A Trius bus sits in the comany's lot in Charlottetown after being towed there from an accident Sunday in Travellers Rest.

Ian Fulford of Toronto grabbed onto his 16-year-old daughter as the bus began to tip over.

“I told her to hold on,’’ said Fulford, one of 33 passengers on board a Maritime Bus motor coach that slid into a ditch in Travellers Rest on Sunday evening.

The bus came to a rest on its side.

“There’s not much to hold onto in these new buses. When the bus came to a stop she had flipped up over my head. I was holding her (as she) dangled over the aisle.’’

Fulford had been visiting his parents in Wood Islands for the holidays and was heading to Moncton to catch a flight back to Toronto.

Mike Cassidy, who owns the bus line, said Sunday’s nor’easter was letting up when the bus left Charlottetown for the Confederation Bridge, which was open to all traffic when the bus left Charlottetown.

“We made the decision (once we were told) the bridge was open to collect (passengers) in Charlottetown, Hunter River, Kensington and Summerside,’’ Cassidy said Monday. “We got to Borden and the bridge is closed . . . and wasn’t going to re-open until (Monday).’’

Since the bridge wasn’t about to open anytime soon, the decision was made to turn around and drop everybody off where they were picked up.

Cassidy said it’s a well-known fact in the transportation industry that high-sided vehicles shouldn’t travel on the Blue Shank Road when the wind is strong so the bus driver chose to stick to Route 2.

It wasn’t long after dropping off a few passengers in Summerside that things began to go wrong.

Cassidy said the bus driver was going 60 km/h “when he tells me the wind started to take me’’.

“He says it was all in slow motion. The bus was parallel with the shoulder and it’s still going.’’

The bus, still sliding parallel, hit the shoulder and began to tip over, landing on its side just feet away from a Maritime Electric pole.

“There was no crash, no smash. The customers told me it was (like it was happening in) slow motion.’’

To avoid chance of fire, the bus driver immediately shut the bus down.

Fulford knew conditions were rapidly deteriorating once the bus turned on to Route 2.

“I was paying attention to how we were driving because the wind pushed us around a few times,’’ Fulford said. “(The driver) was going quite slow to compensate.’’

Fulford said the driver couldn’t compensate by moving into the other lane because there was traffic coming the other way.

“There was nothing else he could do.’’

As soon as the driver shut everything off, the inside of the bus went black.

“There was a bit of panic. Just people asking each other if they were OK and confirming everyone was alright in the back of the bus. People fell on each other. The driver asked everyone to stay calm while he got out on the roof hatch to check and see if it was safe for everyone else to get out. Then people started exiting.’’

Cassidy said the bus driver had nothing but praise for his passengers.

“The bus driver told me the way the people in the bus came together to look after one another. He said it was just phenomenal.’’

There just happened to be a registered nurse on the bus, who immediately began checking on people. She was the second last person to exit the bus.

RCMP, the Kensington Fire Department and Island EMS quickly descended on the collision scene, as did one particular nearby couple.

Cassidy wants to publicly thank Willard and Alice Blakeney for opening up their home to all 33 passengers. Members of the fire department went to Tim Horton’s and brought back coffee and donuts. The Guardian attempted to contact the Blakeney’s but wasn’t successful. A call to the fire chief in Kensington was also not returned.

Some people called relatives to come and get them while Cassidy sent smaller vehicles up to retrieve the rest.

Fulford said he doesn’t blame anyone for what transpired on Sunday, explaining everyone the storm was clearing.

“Everyone was happy to get on that bus to go, everyone assumed (the weather was getting better).’’

Fulford said they just happened to come across “the worst location at the worst time’’. The wind caught the bus and that was it.

The Toronto man said the only thing that was going through his mind as the bus began to tip over was to catch and hold on to his daughter and hope “this thing stops soon’’.

Fulford said it could have been worse, much worse.

“There was a telephone pole there and we were heading for it. if we had gone off the road 10 feet further up we would have hit that pole and it would have been a very different story.’’

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

Organizations: Maritime Electric, RCMP, Kensington Fire Department Blakeney

Geographic location: Toronto, Travellers Rest, Charlottetown Kensington Summerside Wood Islands Moncton Hunter River Borden Blue Shank Road

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Ian Fulford
    January 13, 2013 - 08:36

    It appears that the Fulfords from all over the world hold the same "take responsibility for your own actions. The bus driver as Ian Fulford stated was not to blame. Again like most fulford he was observing his surroundings and like myself instructed his daughter 16 to hold on, this same protect your offspring is another example how the Fulford's world wide protect their and others children and in this case like myself Ian has a daughter in her mid teens. The outcome was sensational as everyone alighted shaken not broken and as a fulford from Australia I like hearing positive things from my name sake's. Regards Ian Fulford Port Kembla Home of the "Stack"

  • Be thankful
    January 02, 2013 - 16:38

    Way to Go to the driver of the bus who knew how to handle the situation. It could have been 10times worse. If your taking the bus in those road conditions then you have to realize that the rds are bad and your life is in the hands of someone else. Way to go Mike and maritime bus for taking the high road in addressing this accident. Question for James. Why don't you call your girlfriend to tell her what happens when you were three hours late. Put yourself in the shoes of the person on the other end. Tell tell your girlfriend the bus was involved in a accident and she goes crazy, thinking the worse... Come on... Think about that. Grow up and be thankful your alive and not hurt.

  • James White
    January 01, 2013 - 21:00

    I was on the bus. While I agree completely with the praise the driver is getting, and that it is a miracle that the worst injuries were a broken nose and a chippen tooth, etc., the process of re-acquiring my luggage and the overall response of Trius has left a bad taste in my mouth. I found that, in my repeated attempts to locate my bag, which was in the cabin of the coach with me at the time of the crash, I was met with unresponsive local and 1-800 numbers, full voicemail boxes, and clueless employees (though I do not blame them for their being uninformed). When my girlfriend called the Saint John bus terminal to see why my bus was over three hours late, they assured her that, as far as they knew, there was only a delay, and I informed them of the crash myself when I called them the following day. I think that, if Maritime Bus is going to continue to be trusted with the lives and property of Maritimers and visitors alike, they should follow the example of their drivers and operate efficiently, professionally, and with the well being of their passengers as their primary objective.

  • Freda
    January 01, 2013 - 13:49

    Wow! Thankfully the bus driver was professiona and kept calm. His kind thoughts and concerns about his passengers show the depth of his compassion. Lucky for passengers that this man was an experienced driver and knew how to manage an emergency situation. As one passengers said, it could have been worse. Makes you long for the old ferry service that in all probability would have seen the bus get on the ferry and across Northhumberland strait. Maybe we're are not being served as well with the Confederation Bridge with our changable weather patterns. Perhaps a ferry addition to the bridge would be a good alternative during storms. I can recall getting across on the ferry when roads were barely passable. All said and done, there were no serious injuries, the bus driver was able to keep an emergency situation under control. He should be very proud of his compassion and ability. Trius Ought to give this fellow a promotion and perhaps a free dinner for a job well done.

  • Deb Williams
    January 01, 2013 - 09:47

    If there's one thing we should have learned this year, it is that we must learn to respect (and sometimes be fearful of) Mother Nature.

  • All Canadian Traveller
    December 31, 2012 - 23:18

    Just think of what it will be like in Bonshaw when high sided vehicles are on a highway that is raised 100ft, open for strong winds.

  • Whoa
    December 31, 2012 - 23:00

    Thank God no one was hurt. It's amazing to see strangers come together in such crazy situations.

  • khj
    December 31, 2012 - 21:00

    Accidents happen