Utah bus crash: At least four dead and more injured after tourist bus overturns near Bryce Canyon

Harriet Brewis
Highway patrolmen stand at the scene of the crash which killed at least four people in Utah on Friday: AP

At least four people have been killed and dozens more injured after a bus carrying Chinese tourists crashed near a Utah national park.

Thirty people were on board the tour bus when it ran off the road, rolled into a guardrail and flipped onto its side, Garfield County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

Between 12 and 15 passengers suffered "very critical injuries" and 10 passengers had minor to serious injuries, the Utah Highway Patrol said.

All the injured passengers were taken to hospital, including several by helicopter, a spokesperson for the highway patrol added.

The tour bus was headed towards Bryce Canyon National Park, according to officials (AP)

The cause of the crash, which occurred at about 11.30am local time (6.30pm UK time) on Friday just west of Bryce Canyon National Park, remains under investigation, according to officials.

Highway Patrol spokesman Corporal Chris Bishop said that based on the number of critically injured victims, it was possible the death toll would rise.

Photos taken in the aftermath of the accident show first responders treating passengers on the road, just feet away from the heavily damaged bus.

Garfield County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Dastrup said the passengers were all Mandarin Chinese speakers. They are believed to have travelled to the US from China or Taiwan.

The bus was pictured hanging over guardrails on Utah's busy State Route 12 (AP)

Employees of the nearby Bryce Canyon Resort told CNN their manager was called to the scene to help emergency service staff by translating for the tour group.

The manager is one of the few Chinese speakers in the area, the hotel staff said.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington DC has since sent officials to the area to assist the victims.

It tweeted: "We are saddened to hear about the accident in Utah involving a bus carrying Chinese tourists. We are thankful to authorities in Utah for their assistance.

“The Embassy has initiated its emergency protocols, sent personnel to the area, and will assist the victims as needed," the embassy tweeted.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert thanked first responders for their work and sent a message to the victim's families on Twitter.

"My heart sank when I heard the news that a tour bus crashed near Bryce Canyon. I grieve with all who lost loved ones in this crash and I'm grateful for the quick work of first responders, as well as all those who are volunteering to act as translators," he wrote.

At the time of the crash, a spokeswoman for Garfield County Sheriff's Office said the bus was headed towards Bryce Canyon, located about 270 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Bryce Canyon, best known for its multi-hued rock formations which attract around two million visitors a year, remained open though traffic to the park was restricted.

A 14-mile stretch of highway around the crash site was shut in both directions as authorities began investigating the cause of the accident, and it likely will remain closed "for some time," Highway Patrol spokesman Corporal Chris Bishop said.