'the upper deck was hell on earth,' says Westboro bus crash survivor
Karen Hall is a survivor of the Westboro bus station crash that killed three people and injured 23 others on Friday, January 11. As a result, she suffered injuries to several areas of her body. Hall shared her experience, exclusively, with CTV's Stefan Keyes. CTV News has chosen to publish her responses in its entirety.
Q: Firstly, how are you doing?
A: It has been a rough few days both physically and psychologically for me and my family but I am thankful to be here to share my story.
Q: Describe your experience for me.
A: I have a routine on the bus. I usually read the news and my personal emails. Just as I was closing up my cell, I felt the bus hit the curb really hard. There were some startled screams from passengers. I wasn’t panicked yet as it is not the first time I have been on a bus that hit the curb. But then the bus was jostling around like the driver no longer had control after which it felt like we hit a cement wall. On impact all the seats started to push back towards me, pinning my right leg. The pain was excruciating. I could smell smoke and was terrified the bus was going to catch on fire. I was trapped and unable to free myself.
I couldn’t feel my leg. There was blood in the aisle and I had no way of knowing if it was mine and if my leg was still there. I kept wishing I would just pass out because of the intense pain. The impact was so hard that the passengers right in front of me were pushed up and pinned in a standing position, their seats crushing my leg into my seat. My seatmate had 2 legs pinned.
Really the only way to describe what went on inside the bus on the upper deck was hell on earth. There was so much pain, suffering and fear. I will never forget it.
I believe it took about an hour before rescuers got to me and cut me out. I was then taken to a trauma bus and later transported by ambulance to the hospital.
Q: Where on the bus were you sitting?
A: I was sitting on the upper deck, impact side, aisle seat about 5-6 seats up from the back.
Q: What’s your condition…and what are you being told about recovery?
A: I have injuries to my right leg, lower back, right shoulder and I banged the back of my head. I always sit with my big gym bag on my lap and I believe this saved me from worse injuries. Since being released from the hospital I have had panic attacks and nightmares. I am going for more testing next week to further assess the extent of my leg and knee injuries.
Q: How does your life change following what took place?
A: I am not sure how anyone recovers from something like this. Right now, I am taking 1 day at a time. I am not very ambulatory so all I can do is keep my brain occupied.
I am anxious to get back to work but have to be patient with myself. I unequivocally will not be riding a double decker bus again…..jury is still out on other types of buses, trains and planes where there are seats in close proximity in front of me.
I am taking advantage of all the resources available to assist with my recovery, and am hopeful for the future. I am very lucky to have a great husband by my side and wonderful family and friends to help me get through this.
My heart goes out to the other passengers and their families that were impacted by this terrible event.
***Additional sentiments from Karen Hall:
"Stefan, I would like to share something with you that is very important to me. I am hoping you can help by relaying a message. I would like to thank the first responders for their rescue efforts. The amount of compassion and caring I felt while they carried out their duties was overwhelming. They all went above and beyond to ensure that I felt safe and cared for.
There was one first responder however that is special to me. The way I was pinned after impact left me unable to move. I only had my right thigh on the seat. I had to hold myself up using my arms and left leg. I was using the seat to my left to help prop myself up with my arm. When the firefighters were starting to extricate trapped people, they needed to remove the seats next to me to give them room to work. I was exhausted and couldn’t hold myself up without that seat so a fireman assisted me by squatting next to my seat and allowing me to push on his leg for support. He told me his name but I cannot remember. He put himself in discomfort so that I would not have to endure more pain than I was. It could not have been easy to stay squatted that long with someone using your leg to push their body weight up. I will forever remember and appreciate his act of kindness and selflessness. If you could help identify him and give him my sincere gratitude and thanks."