By Teresa Carson
PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - Nine people were killed and at least 26 others injured on Sunday when a charter bus headed to Canada from Las Vegas skidded off an icy mountain highway and crashed down an embankment in northeastern Oregon.
The Oregon State Police said a preliminary investigation showed the charter bus, carrying about 40 people through the Blue Mountains en route to Vancouver, British Columbia, "lost control on the snow/ice covered westbound lanes of Interstate 84" near Pendleton.
The bus crashed through a guardrail alongside the road and went down an embankment of around 200 feet. Crews trained in rope rescue were needed to bring victims back up to the highway, police said.
State Police spokesman Lt. Gregg Hastings said nine people had been confirmed killed in the crash.
"We are continuing to try and confirm the total number of passengers and number of injured persons transported to area hospital or secondary locations due to severity of injuries." the state police said in a written statement.
The bus driver survived the crash but investigators said he had not yet been interviewed because of the severity of his injuries.
St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton initially received 26 of the injured, spokesman Larry Blanc said. Five of those patients were stabilized and transported to a secondary hospital by air for further treatment.
"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
Blanc said that of the 21 patients who remained at St. Anthony, some had been treated and released and were being provided food and shelter by the Red Cross. Some of them were children, he said.
Brycie Jones, spokeswoman for Oregon Health and Science University said that hospital had received four patients from the bus crash.
Jones said she could not disclose their identities or condition and it was not immediately clear if the patients had come from another hospital.
Authorities identified the charter company as Mi Joo Tour & Travel, based in Vancouver, British Columbia and said the bus was headed there as part of a round-trip from Las Vegas, Nevada.
Representatives for Mi Joo could not be reached for comment on Sunday evening.
Police said the names of the dead and wounded would not be released until next of kin were notified, which could take several days because many were believed to be from out of the country.
Pendleton is in northeast Oregon near the border with Washington state, about 200 miles east of Portland.
(Reporting by Teresa Carson; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Todd Eastham)