Smoky Lake residents commended for helping scouts after bus crash
Residents of Smoky Lake are being commended for their efforts helping dozens of young Beaver Scouts from Edmonton after the bus they were in collided with two moose east of the town on Friday night.
RCMP say a school bus carrying 116th Linwood Scouts – Beaver Colony, boys and girls between the ages of five to seven-years-old, was on its way to a Scout camp in the Smoky Lake area when it struck two moose on Highway 28 around 9 p.m. Friday.
“They were on their way to camp out at the Bonnie Lake area when their bus struck two moose trying to cross the highway on Highway 28,” said RCMP Cst. Gary Hyde.
The two moose died at the scene of the collision, one that Beaver Scout Leader Chad Bolster described as frantic.
“We had to make sure that everybody was not hurt on the bus, we had to get it off of the highway and then, what are we going to do? We’ve got 26 people standing out on the highway,” Bolster said.
No one on the bus was injured, and that’s being credited to the quick thinking and driving skills of the bus driver.
“The bus driver had tremendous driving skills to maintain that bus upright without going into the ditch or going onto oncoming traffic, he’s the real hero of the day,” said Smoky Lake Fire Chief Hank Holowaychuk.
However the bus was damaged and inoperable after the crash and that’s when police say the community came together to help.
“Vehicles in the area started assisting the kids to a local restaurant here in town where they could stay warm until suitable arrangements could be made to get them out to the campsite,” Hyde said.
“We’re really excited with how the community pulled together here, with the restaurant staying open and even the volunteer fire department from Smoky Lake and Vilna pulling together to make it possible for these kids to get on with the rest of their weekend. IT made for an exciting adventure for them.”
Ryan Tse with Skyway 28 Family Restaurant said the restaurant stayed open an extra two hours to help the kids and their chaperones.
“It’s mainly based on human nature. In my belief, it takes one to say ‘I want to help,’ but it takes another to say ‘what do you need?’ and then go through with it,” Tse said.
“We served them drinks, we served them food, we made sure everything was okay.”
Police say a local bus driver then volunteered his bus to transport the kids the rest of the way to camp.
It’s those actions from the community that have the scouts saying thanks.
“The RCMP and the local fire crews were so good with us. They were so good with the kids. I can’t say enough about the community of Smoky Lake,” Bolster said.
Despite the damaging crash, and the sorrow for animals killed, the trip will be remembered for bringing out the best in the community.
“Everybody is smiling today and they’re out at camp running around and they’re doing very well,” Bolster said.
“Everybody got to go on with their weekend and they’ll have stories to tell for years to come,” said Hyde.
Holowaychuk said it’s common for moose to be crossing the highway in the area at this time of year.
Smoky Lake is located about 115 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.
With files from Sean Amato