PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Five people were killed and some 20 others injured on Sunday when a charter bus skidded off an icy highway near Pendleton, Oregon, police said.
The Oregon State Police said a preliminary investigation showed the charter bus, carrying about 40 people, "lost control on the snow/ice covered westbound lanes of Interstate 84" near Pendleton.
The bus crashed through a guardrail and went down an embankment of around 200 feet. People trained in rope rescue were needed to bring victims back up to the highway, police said.
By early afternoon about 20 people had been taken to local hospitals.
St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton received 18 of the injured said Larry Blanc, the hospital's director of communications.
"About 10:30 this morning we got the call and declared a Code D, which means we bring in extra staff and supplies," he said, adding that D stands for "disaster."
"There are various types of injuries. Some of the injured were able to walk in on their own," Blanc said. "We are taking a lot of CT scans and assessing the injuries
Some of the injured were also transported to nearby hospitals by ambulance and some were transported by air to other hospitals with trauma centres, he said.
There were three planes standing by at the Pendleton airport to transport the injured to hospitals out of the area. Pendleton is about 210 miles east of Portland, police said.
Authorities did not immediately release the name of the charter bus company, the destination or origin of the bus, and no details were given on the passenger group.
Pendleton is in northeast Oregon near the border with Washington state.
Reporting by Teresa Carson; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman