Twenty-four people have been sent to hospital including at least four in critical condition after a tour bus crashed on Highway 401 near Prescott, Ont.

Ontario Provincial Police Const. Suzanne Runciman told CTV Ottawa that police responded to the single-vehicle collision just after 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

“The passenger side of the bus struck a rock cut in the area,” Runciman said. “The passengers’ side of the bus got quite heavily damaged, thus all the injuries.”

Runciman, who delivered first aid to the victims, said it was not clear why the bus left the road. The investigation is ongoing, but CTV News has learned that the bus driver told police the tires seized and the steering wheel locked moments before the crash.

The situation was complicated by the fact that the bus passengers did not speak English, with the exception of a tour guide who helped to translate, Runciman said.

She added that the passengers appear to be from China.

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa said on Twitter it was following the accident closely and was “very much concerned about the conditions of the injured passengers.”

Runciman said she could not confirm where the bus is from. The bus is painted with the logo of the U.S.-based company Union Tour Express.

Runciman said four of the 24 patients sent to hospital were believed to have life-threatening injuries.

The bus driver was injured but not seriously, according to Runciman.

Patients were sent to at least four hospitals.

Kingston Health Sciences Centre, which is about 100 kilometres southeast of the crash site, said on Twitter just after 7 p.m. that it received three patients and was expecting a fourth.

“All are in critical condition,” the hospital said. “We activated our trauma team & had extra staff in the Emergency Dept. to provide support during incident.”

The Ottawa Hospital said on Twitter just before 6 p.m. that it had received three patients. One of them was listed in critical condition and two were in serious but stable condition, according to the hospital.

Brockville General Hospital said that it had received five patients, and “each are in critical condition.”

Spokeswoman Abby McIntyre told The Canadian Press that all of the patients that the hospital had received spoke Mandarin. She said she was told they were “five of the most critical.”

The Queensway Carleton Hospital in Ottawa received about 20 patients. They arrived by school bus and appeared to have mostly minor injuries, according to CTV Ottawa.

Dr. Bhaskar Gopolan, director of emergency services at the Queensway Carleton Hospital, said that when the hospital heard the patients only spoke Mandarin, they put a call out to hospital staff for translators.

“Several physicians and nursing staff showed up and volunteered,” Gopolan said. “Everybody was prepared.”

The passenger side of the tour bus shows considerable damage, including scratches and warped metal.

The front and passenger side windows of the bus were smashed out, leaving yellow curtains blowing in the wind and the luggage compartment visible with bags still inside.

A piece of the broken glass could be seen hanging off of the front end of the bus.

OPP officers remained on scene throughout the evening, inspecting the bus from the inside as well as using a drone to capture external aerial footage. 

Ontario Provincial Police said on Twitter just after 8 p.m. that all westbound lanes of the 401 remained closed between Edward Street and Maitland Road.

Hud Johnson said he witnessed the aftermath of the crash, with “four of five people lying down, medical people attending him.”

“Eventually they took those people to the helicopter,” he said.

Prescott is located about 100 kilometres south of Ottawa.

With reports from CTV’s Omar Sachedina, CTV Ottawa and files from CTV’s Rachel Aiello at the scene

CTV News has dispatched a crew to the scene of the 401 bus crash near Prescott, Ont. Online producer Rachel Aiello reports live on the ground.

Posted by CTV News on Monday, June 4, 2018