Tragedy in Canada
An Ephrata Township woman who died Sunday after her tour bus crashed in Canada is being remembered by her church community.
Joyce Bowers, 70, was a long time member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Ephrata, according to the Rev. Henry Herbener, pastor of the church. She was on the trip with her husband, Dave, who was not seriously injured in the crash.
“Physically, Dave is fine,” Herbener said.
“He’s ok,” said the Bowers’ daughter Robin, from Lititz Tuesday afternoon, adding what a big help the chaplain at the hospital has been.
Herbener said the couple were the only members from the church who were on the trip that he knows of at this time. “It was not a church trip,” he said.
Herbener said it is a devastating time for members of the church as they try and come to grips with the tragedy.
“Joyce was a good and faithful member,” he said. “She did much work behind the scenes and we are devastated and trying to figure out what sense this all makes.”
“She was a real good gal,” he added.
Herbener said Joyce had been looking forward to the trip and planning for a long time.
Dan Doremus, president of the congregation council, said his experience with both Dave and Joyce centered on their active involvement with the programs and ministries at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.
Doremus said Joyce and Dave helped to serve and prepare the community meals at Holy Trinity and she was a member of the altar guild, ushering team and a communion assistant during worship.
“She and Dave faithfully helped decorate the sanctuary for Vacation Bible School and at Christmas,” he said. “She lived her life in Christian service to others and was a friend to many.”
Fellow parishioner Brenda Wangman said Joyce was very active in their church.
“I know they were always there in church and Sunday school,” she said. “She probably did things in the background that I’m not even aware of.”
“I am just very sad that this happened,” Wangman said.
A prayer gathering was being planned for Tuesday evening at Trinity.
The 70-year-old was among 21 people on the Executive Coach bus when it went off the road and rolled over in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, according to an Intelligencer Journal article.
Scott MacRae, a spokesman for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said Tuesday officials are reviewing evidence collected at the scene of the crash and interviews with those involved in the accident.
“I know everyone is looking for answers but the investigators need time to look at all the information. Hopefully, they’ll come up with some sort of conclusion,” he said.
MacRae said a traffic analyst re-created the fatal crash and a mechanical inspection was done Monday in an effort to determine what went wrong. He said Executive Coach &tstr; based in West Lampeter Township &tstr; and the driver are cooperating with the investigation.
In a statement released Tuesday, Executive Coach Inc. Vice President Dale McMichael said authorities found no mechanical problems with the bus.
He said the accident was the firm’s first to result in a fatality.
Lititz resident Bill Westlake, co-owner and operator of Westlake Tours, was behind the wheel when the bus overturned. His wife, Shirley, said Tuesday afternoon that the experience has been worrisome for those waiting for more information back home.
“I’ve spoken to him a few times since the accident. He seems fine but I know he’s working hard to get the people still there anything they might need,” she said in the article.
Shirley Westlake said her husband sustained numerous cuts and bruises from being thrown through the windshield.
MacRae said the crash happened on a straight section of highway that was easily accessible to first responders. He said there are areas of the road that could have made the recovery much more difficult, describing the terrain as hilly along the scenic highway.
But, he said, the age of the passengers on the bus was a factor in the recovery effort.
“The accident created quite a scene for our emergency workers, with many of the injured being elderly,” he said. “The most serious cases were flown to hospitals while the rest were transported by ambulance to nearby facilities.”
Lynn Gilbert, spokesperson with the Cape Breton District Health Authority, said Tuesday that 19 people involved in the accident were treated at four hospitals. Six remain hospitalized; two are in serious but stable condition.
“These people have been through a really traumatic experience so they will need some time and privacy to heal,” she said in the article, adding that the health authority would not be releasing any personal information.
The group was on a 10-day trek that first took them to Maine and then on to Canada, where they visited Saint John, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
McMichael said an Executive Coach bus was expected to arrive in Nova Scotia Tuesday to transport home any travelers who are unable or unwilling to fly.
“Our focus right now is to make sure everyone gets home safely,” he said in a prepared release.