It was all hands on deck at Wadena Hospital on Friday, March 13, as staff dealt with the aftermath of a schoolbus rollover which occurred near Elfros that morning.

Luckily, only minor injuries were reported among the 19 students, two chaperones and driver who were on board the bus when it lost control due to road conditions, entered a snowy ditch and tipped onto its passenger side on Highway 35 one kilometre south of Elfros. 

The students, all aged 9 and 10 from Wadena Elementary School, had been on their way to Mission Ridge ski hill.

Ambulance crews were called to the scene just after 8 a.m. Advanced Care Paramedic Kelly Prime, supervisor of Midway Ambulance Care, was just leaving his home when he got the call, and immediately responded.

“It was very foggy,” he said. “The road conditions were slippery and we were notified that there were about 25 people who had been involved in a schoolbus rollover.”

Preparing for the worst, Prime worked with MD Dispatch to immediately call in Wadena, Foam Lake, Rose Valley and Lestock paramedic teams to respond, then set up a central command and communications centre from the Advanced Paramedic Rapid response unit. Prime and MD Dispatch worked quickly through the organization’s disaster protocol, establishing available resources and notifying Wynyard and Wadena hospitals of the incident. Communications between Prime, MD dispatch and the other responding ambulances went very smoothly, creating a  safe response plan for all to follow.

However, when Prime arrived at the scene, he learned there were only minor injuries among the students, and all had already been evacuated from the bus.

The road was extremely icy near the scene, Prime reported. “It was so treacherous, I could barely go 20 km/h,” he said. “Standing on the road was even tough – I almost needed skates.”

Luckily, two vans had stopped on the side of the road, and that’s where Prime found the students and teachers.  Prime was handed the school’s manifest with all the students’ names, and he started triaging, organizing kids by which van they were in, and noting which were more injured than others. Once ambulances started arriving on scene from Wynyard, Wadena and Foam Lake, paramedics were assigned to each van and they started treating and assessing those involved in the incident again.

Wynyard Fire Department also attended the scene. Firefighters secured the perimeter around the bus and ensured no other students were still in the bus. RCMP from Wynyard, Wadena and Foam Lake were also there to assist.

As no one had suffered critical injuries, Lestock ambulance was called off and Rose Valley’s team of paramedics was asked to head straight for Wadena Hospital, where the students were to be transported, to help the hospital receive this large influx of patients.

A few students who did not require any treatment were released at the scene; the rest were taken to Wadena Hospital for further assessment.

“Though Wynyard Hospital and Wadena Hospital are close in distance, the kids were from Wadena, so it made sense to take them there, especially since the roads were still icy, and parents would have been travelling those roads to Wynyard to see their children. We wanted to reduce the risk of further collisions,” said Prime.

“It was absolutely the right decision, to bring them all to Wadena,” said Bonnie Scrimbitt, co-manager of Wadena Hospital.

“The best part was that most of them came walking in and not on stretchers,”Scrimbitt added.

The students were met at the hospital by three local doctors, two registered nurses and a licenced practical nurse, alongside the two Rose Valley paramedics.

“We had to bring in one extra nurse to give a hand,” Scrimbitt noted. “With the help of the paramedics, that was enough. Our paramedics work extremely well with our staff.  They were there to help with everything we asked, and even things we didn’t have to ask for. The staff really appreciate all they do to help. We make a good team together.”

“I am very proud of the interdisciplinary approach of EMS in Wynyard and Wadena, and the partnerships they have developed in their communities,” said Sherri Solar, Manager of rural emergency medical services. “Kudos to their collaborative approach to ‘patient first’ healthcare.”

The students quickly filled the small hospital’s waiting room, then overflowed onto chairs in the halls. Some offices were even commandeered to house them. While the medical staff focused on assessments, everyone pitched in to gather enough information to register the patients.

“Because most of them were from Wadena, we knew they would likely be in our system already. We started registering them right away, but there were a lot of people to enter, and it’s not an easy or fast process. But we needed them registered so we had charts to write on. Our admin staff did an extraordinary job,” Scrimbitt said.

With the kids and medical professionals taking up the hospital’s narrow hallway, parents were directed into a board room near the emergency room. Prime took on the task of calming and reassuring them that their children were okay until they were able to see them themselves.

Everyone in the hospital was called into action, from housekeeping to dietary staff. Some were running information to registration and ensuring that the area around the students was immediately made clean again in case of a spill, while others helped deliver trays to the other patients in the hospital, a task usually done by the nurses, and ensured any empty patient rooms were cleaned right away in case they were needed.

All  paramedics who arrived at the hospital – nine in total – stayed to help out.

“Without the paramedics, we might have had trouble dealing with that many patients at once, “ Scrimbitt noted. “For anything major that happens, our paramedics always stay and help. They are awesome. We work together really well out here.”

The parents, and especially the students and teachers involved, behaved admirably under the circumstances, Prime said.

“They did an amazing job on the evacuation of the bus. The teacher, principal and bus driver who were there were all so organized, it made my job easy,” said Prime. “The kids were incredible. They were only nine and 10 years old, but they were calm and collected.”


The nine paramedics from Wynyard, Wadena, Foam Lake and Rose Valley who responded to the school bus incident debriefed with some of the hospital staff afterwards.