PENDLETON, OR (CBS) -- Bad weather in the northwest may be to blame for a tour bus accident Sunday that killed nine passengers and injured at least 26 others. The bus driver lost control near Pendleton, Oregon, and went down an embankment.
A steel guardrail along a rural part of Oregon's Interstate 84 did little to keep the tour bus and its roughly 40 passengers from going over the 85 foot drop.
Dozens of rescuers followed a black scar down the side of the ravine to find the bus at the bottom resting upright but with significant damage.
Officials say just getting down to the injured and dying was a time consuming process. Jim Voelz with La Grande Rural Fire Dept. says, "There was snow on the ground which made pretty treacherous so we used a haul system to get the patients or some of the patients from the crash site which was down in a ravine back up to the highway so they could be transported to medical facilities."
The most seriously hurt were air-lifted to hospitals as far away as Portland and Boise Idaho. The bus was owned by Mi Joo travel and headed state police say from Las Vegas to Vancouver Canada but the weather was hardly optimal. Lt. Gregg Hastings with Oregon State Patrol says, "We're not blaming road conditions- we know that there was some snow and ice on area roads but the investigation is just beginning."
The driver of the bus was injured, but survived. That testimony, more than anyone's, will be able to tell investigators just what went wrong.