They’d left earlier that morning, getting on a bus for what was supposed to be a day trip to the casino.
But they never made it there.
Fifteen of the 25 people onboard a bus, mostly seniors, were killed after it was hit by a semi-trailer truck as the bus crossed a southwestern Manitoba highway intersection late Thursday morning.
Another 10 people on the bus were taken to hospital with serious injuries, RCMP said.
The deadly crash has shaken people in the western Manitoba community the victims called home.
Here’s what else we know so far about what happened — and what comes next.
How did the crash happen?
The bus was going south on Highway 5 and crossing the eastbound lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway when it was hit by a semi-trailer truck, RCMP said.
Mounties said Friday they’d confirmed the semi had the right of way after reviewing dashcam footage from the larger vehicle.
Witness statements from passing motorists corroborated what police saw on the video, Supt. Rob Lasson, the Manitoba RCMP’s officer in charge of major crime services, said at a news conference.
“We are not assigning culpability or laying any blame at this time,” Lasson said. “We are merely stating the facts as we know them.”
The posted speed limit on both highways at the intersection where the crash happened is 100 km/h.
Where did it happen?
The intersection where the two vehicles collided is surrounded by fields and located just north of Carberry, a small southwestern Manitoba town about 160 kilometres west of Winnipeg.
Who was in the vehicles?
The bus involved in the crash had 25 people on it — 19 women and six men — ranging in age from 58 to 88, Lasson said Friday.
Fifteen of those people died and 10 were taken to hospital.
WATCH | RCMP piecing together puzzle of tragic crash:
Quality Care Transit, which launched in 2022, was the operator of the 24-seat bus that left Dauphin Active Living Centre Thursday morning.
In order to drive a bus with a seating capacity of more than 24 passengers in the province, a driver needs a Class 2 licence, which is considered a professional licence, Manitoba Public Insurance told CBC in a statement.
The company’s co-owner was the driver of the vehicle, which was en route to the Sand Hills Casino near Carberry, about 150 kilometres south of the city of Dauphin.
Seniors and community members from Dauphin, which has a population of about 8,000, often go on bus trips to nearby events and casinos, an official with the active living centre said.
The semi at the scene had the name of transport company Day & Ross on its side.
In a Thursday statement, Day & Ross Chief Executive Officer William Doherty said the company was “heartbroken” by what happened and would fully co-operate with the investigation.
Lasson said Friday the semi driver had been released from hospital and had spoken with police. The driver of the bus remained hospitalized as of Friday, so police hadn’t spoken with them at that point, Lasson said.
Where are the survivors?
As of Friday, the 10 survivors — six women and four men who ranged in age from their early 60s to late 80s — remained in hospital at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg and the regional health centre in the southwestern Manitoba city of Brandon.
That’s according to information from the RCMP and Shared Health, which oversees health-care delivery in Manitoba.
The response to the crash included 14 critical care medical crew and two helicopters from the STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service) air ambulance service, as well as two planes.
Brian Schoonbaert, chief executive officer for the Prairie Mountain Health region — which covers southwestern Manitoba — told CBC News that while six crash victims were initially taken to the Brandon hospital, only one remained there as of late Friday afternoon. That person was in stable condition, while the rest were moved to Winnipeg.
Shared Health said Friday that six of the survivors were in a critical care unit, while four were in a surgical unit. They’re being treated for “a variety of serious injuries,” that were largely head and orthopedic injuries.
How many crashes happen at this intersection?
From 2012 up until the crash on Thursday, there was only one crash involving a fatality at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 5, a provincial spokesperson said Friday.
Between 2012 and 2021 — the most recent year where exact data was available — there were a total of 29 crashes there, including 12 where an injury was reported.
Seven of those collisions involved animals and 22 were vehicle crashes, the spokesperson said.
What happens now?
All 10 survivors have now been identified, meaning anyone else who was on the bus is “presumed to be deceased,” Lasson said Friday. Victims’ families have all been notified.
Manitoba chief medical examiner Dr. John Younes said the significant injuries suffered by those who died in the crash make it difficult to identify them visually. His office is working to officially identify them, using methods that could include fingerprints, dental records, medical history and DNA comparison.
Manitoba RCMP also said they’ve turned to their Saskatchewan counterparts for help in investigating the mass casualty crash, which has drawn comparisons to the Humboldt Broncos tragedy in 2018.
And while police are continuing their investigation into the crash, that doesn’t mean answers will come soon.
Lasson said it could take upwards of three months for Mounties to be able to share the findings of their investigation, adding the timeline will depend on how long survivors are in hospital and what information police discover as they work.
Both the semi and the bus have been seized for analysis. RCMP are also determining whether the semi had an event data recorder, which could provide information including speed, coordinates and the mechanical status of the vehicle, Lasson said.
Meanwhile, people in Dauphin are struggling to come to terms with the deaths and injuries to members of that community.
“Literally everybody in town knows somebody that was on that bus,” said David Bosiak, the city’s mayor.
“Right now it’s just dealing with the magnitude of this and how everybody is impacted.”
WATCH | Family support centres open for victims:
A family support centre has been set up in the Trinity Lutheran Church in Dauphin. Lasson said a second support centre has been set up at a location in Winnipeg.
Mounties are asking people to share any information or videos that could help with their investigation into the crash.