A 32-year-old man has been charged with careless driving causing injury after a horror bus crash near Queenstown yesterday.

The crash left 20 Chinese tourists with injuries including two who lost limbs. Those two remain in a serious but stable condition.

The accused is expected to appear in the Queenstown District Court on January 27.

Police said in a statement they, along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Chinese Consulate, and the tour bus operator, were continuing to support those involved.

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The remaining passengers were transported back to their accommodation in Queenstown last night and arrangements were being made by their tour company regarding their return to China.

Emergency services arrived at the crash about 1.45pm, on the Glenorchy-Queenstown Rd, 7km southwest of Queenstown, where a bus had rolled on to its side.

The Otago Daily Times understands a girl lost both hands in the crash and a woman lost one hand.

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A representative from Awing Travel NZ Ltd, the company which operated the bus, said this morning he was driving to Christchurch and could not comment on the crash or the condition of the injured passengers.

RNZ reports that one of the injured is in Dunedin Hospital while the other is being cared for in Christchurch Hospital.

Otago-Lakes area commander Inspector Olaf Jensen said there were 23 international tourists on board, and some had received ''quite significant injuries''.

Emergency services tend to the injured. Photo / James Allan
Emergency services tend to the injured. Photo / James Allan

''It's a traumatic scene,'' he said.

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''There are people with quite traumatic injuries.''

He confirmed one vehicle towing a trailer was involved but said it was too early to speculate about the cause.

A spokesman for the Chinese consulate office in Christchurch told the Herald staff from the Consular General's office had visited the two seriously injured patients.

He said they were now recovering well and were not in a life-threatening position after undergoing surgery yesterday.

The others who had minor injuries were treated before being released and were staying in their Queenstown accommodation.

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult said his heart went out to those involved, and their families.

"I feel dreadfully for these folks because clearly they're on the other side of the world, on perhaps the trip of a lifetime, and this accident has occurred.

"I can pray for those that are seriously injured that they recover quickly. For all the rest of the folk, they'd be terribly upset."


A Queenstown resident, who did not want to be named, was driving from the resort towards Glenorchy and witnessed the aftermath of the crash.

He said there were ''emotional scenes'' while fire crews, police and medics helped the injured.

''I came around the corner and the bus was on its side. There was glass ... and there was blood.

''There was a bit of carnage on the road and I thought, 'people have been seriously injured here'. By the look on their faces, you could tell that something horrific had happened.''

The man, who drove between Queenstown and Glenorchy daily for work, said it was a dangerous stretch of road.

A St John spokesman said two people had serious injuries, one moderate and 17 minor.
Two were airlifted to hospital, and two others were taken by road.

Two helicopters, three ambulances and a manager had attended the crash.

Traffic was severely backed up while the road remained closed for crews to work at the scene with heavy lifting equipment needed to right the bus.

It reopened again last night.

Police were speaking to witnesses and the driver of the bus.

Insp Jensen acknowledged the response from motorists and Wilson Bay residents who were on the scene before emergency services arrived.

A second resident described seeing the walking wounded at the scene being treated by St John.

She said the bus and luggage trailer had gone on to their sides and blocked both sides of the road.

The windscreen was smashed, but that could have been done by rescuers.

''It doesn't actually look that damaged,'' the resident said.

The bus crashed on a section of straight road after a ''very sharp'' bend.

There had been crashes on the bend before, but they mostly happened in winter.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman said it received reports of the crash near Wilsons Bay at 1.50pm.

Three appliances from Queenstown, one appliance from Frankton and a Frankton support vehicle attended.

Crews arrived at the scene to a bus on its side. No-one was trapped.

The Serious Crash Unit and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Team were advised.

Awing Travel NZ Ltd confirmed its company ran the bus involved in the crash.

A spokeswoman yesterday said a tour group of 21 Chinese tourists was on the bus, sightseeing near Queenstown.

She said two on board had ''serious'' injuries to their arms.

The company was in contact with the Chinese embassy and police.

She declined to comment further until police had concluded their investigation.

- NZ Herald and Otago Daily Times