A teenage girl died Wednesday morning in a crash involving a school bus and a semi-truck north of Redwater.
The crash happened at about 8 a.m. on Opal Road at Township Road 594.
A spokesperson with Aspen View Public Schools said the bus was taking students to Thorhild Central School, a kindergarten to Grade 12 school located in Thorhild, Alta. There were 14 students and one driver on the bus at the time.
STARS Air Ambulance was also called to the crash but was stood down on the way to the crash.
Alberta Health Services said the teenage girl was pronounced dead at the scene. EMS assessed 14 other patients at the scene. The driver of the semi was not injured, RCMP said. No one was taken to hospital, according to AHS.
Aspen View Public Schools said the teen was a student at Thorhild Central School. Counselling services are being offered to students and staff at the school.
“We grieve this immeasurable loss with the student’s family, loved ones and the entire Thorhild Central School community,” Aspen View Public Schools Supt. Mark Francis said.
“We pledge our ongoing support to all those affected by today’s tragedy.”
Just over 300 students attend the school on Thorhild County. Francis said classes were not cancelled on Wednesday, but some parents chose to pick up their children.
“The school is continuing to function,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean regular classes are happening because we have to work with students.”
Francis said the student’s death will have a profound effect on the entire community.
“These will be students that have attended school together for multiple years, the same kids year after year. This is the typical small-town Alberta where everyone knows everyone and it’s very difficult to deal with,” he explained.
“It’s a profound impact, at every level. This is a small community, everyone knows everyone and so it impacts the entire community. We have a grieving family, we have a grieving community, we have grieving children and we have grieving staff.”
Police said they were still investigating at the scene.
“There was some fog that was reported,” said Cpl. Ronald Bumbry of the RCMP.
“We are still looking at all the factors contributing to this collision. It’s very early on.
“Our thoughts are with the family members of the deceased, students and staff, and the community of Thorhild during this difficult time.”
Alberta school bus safety regulations
School bus safety was reviewed in Alberta in 2008, following the death of a 17-year-old girl. Jennifer Noble, a Grade 12 student at the time, was killed after a gravel truck slammed into an SUV, which then rammed into a school bus.
The crash happened near Rimbey, Alta.
Regulations put in place in 2010 state all Alberta school buses must have four red and four amber alternating flashing warning lamps mounted outside of the bus at or near the roof line.
School buses must also have a white flashing strobe lamp and be equipped with retro reflective material on the back and sides of the bus.
While hotly debated, seatbelts are not required on school buses in Alberta.
“While any injury or fatality involving a school bus is one too many, studies have found that due to the design of school buses, seatbelts would not necessarily make buses safer and may, in some circumstances, put students at greater risk of injury,” read the 2008 Alberta Transportation report.
Watch below: What are the regulations surrounding school bus safety in Alberta?
Alberta Education estimates school buses travel approximately 336,000 kilometres in rural parts of the province every school day. On Wednesday, the government provided data on collisions involving school buses during the 2014-15 school year. That year, 34 collisions involving school buses were reported in rural parts of Alberta.
Overall in 2014-15, the were 51 school buses involved in injury collisions, two of which resulted in a fatality: a school bus driver and “one other road user.”
There were 478 school buses involved in property damage collisions. Collisions in urban areas made up 93.5 per cent of all school bus collisions that year. More crashes occurred between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. than at any other time.
Francis said all of the school district’s buses are equipped with a strobe light. School officials are working with the RCMP on the investigation.
Opal Road was shut down between Highway 18 and Township Road 582 on Wednesday morning. There was no timeline as to when the road would reopen.
Redwater is located about 60 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
With a file from The Canadian Press.