The head-on smash between two buses, one of which was a tourist bus carrying passengers from the P&O cruise ship, Pacific Dawn, killed three locals and seriously injured 12 Australians.
Ten of the passengers have been airlifted to hospitals in Noumea and Brisbane. Among the most critical is an 11-year-old boy, one of two passengers airlifted to Brisbane for emergency treatment.
According to Dr Emmeline Finn from Australian air ambulance service CareFlight, many of the injured passengers have sustained head injuries, open wounds and long-bone fractures, with the condition of some being ‘touch-and-go’.
Anne Sherry, Executive Chairman of Carnival Australia, said P&O was working tirelessly to ensure those injured were receiving immediate and appropriate medial attention.
“We’ve been very focused over the last 24 hours making sure everyone who was injured has had the right level of care and had access to the right level of treatment,” she said.
P&O has suspended its contact with the Port Vila-based tour operator pending a thorough investigation.
“The tour operators used by P&O have to be fully accredited and are required to meet our global assurance standards,” said Ms Sherry.
“It’s not a low hurdle.”
Ms Sherry said there were seatbelts onboard the bus but she could not say if passengers were wearing them.
“I’m sure that will form part of the investigation,” she said. “If things aren’t being done properly we will know about it.”
According to Vanuatu’s Daily Post, three locals died in the crash. Vanuatu police have charged the driver of the tour bus with dangerous driving causing death.
Sherry expressed her condolences to the Ni Van community and to the victims of the accident.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with them, their families and everyone around them and we’re doing whatever we can to support their families,” she said.
In its most recent Facebook post, P&O Cruises has praised the efforts of both the local health services, first responders to the tragedy and medical teams.
“While the initial response to the Port Vila emergency is near resolution, this is not the end of the matter. We will continue to keep in close contact with the families of our hospitalised guests who will also continue to be supported by our Care team,” the post states.
“We cannot speak highly enough of our Pacific Dawn guests as they have waited for positive news about the progress of the airlift and the condition of their fellow guests. Good evening from all of us at P&O Cruises.”
Pacific Dawn is now in the Isle of Pines on her scheduled call and is preparing for her return to Brisbane.
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