Canadian Travelers Share Harrowing Experience of Bus Accident in Cuba: "It's Something We'll Never Forget"

Tuesday, June 11, 2024 by Michael Hernandez

Canadian Travelers Share Harrowing Experience of Bus Accident in Cuba: "It's Something We'll Never Forget"
Keven Julien and Danahée Chevarie - Image © Video capture /

A couple from Quebec who were involved in the bus accident on Sunday, June 2 in Cuba are still in shock over the events but are grateful for the emergency services they received at the scene. Danahée Chevarie and Keven Julien were among those heading back to Montreal after a vacation in Cuba. Their bus, traveling from Cayo Santa María to Abel Santamaría International Airport in Santa Clara, collided head-on while overtaking another vehicle. The incident resulted in one fatality and 26 injuries, most of whom were Canadians, including children.

"We were on the right side of the bus, which meant we were suspended in the air," Keven Julien told TVA Nouvelles. "At the moment of impact, it was a surprising jolt, and I noticed the bus started to tip over. I managed to grab onto the seats and keep myself in the air."

Danahée, who was asleep at the time of impact, was thrown over Keven during the accident. "I woke up, felt the first hit, and that's when I realized we had just had an accident. It was a huge shock for all of us," she said. She escaped with bruises on the left side of her body and cuts on her knee and feet.

Keven was one of the first to escape the bus, thanks to a broken window above him. He then began helping children exit the vehicle. "After that, we managed to open the emergency doors from the outside to help others out because there was a smell of gasoline inside the bus," he explained.

According to Danahée, ambulances arrived quickly to transport the most injured individuals. "We don't know the condition of those who had to be hospitalized," she said.

The travel agency Transat, responsible for the Quebecers' stay in Cuba, arranged for a hotel near the hospital for the survivors. The couple was expected to depart for Montreal by the following Tuesday. "It's something we'll never forget, that's for sure," Danahée stated.

The sister of another Quebecer, who was trapped with her partner and child in Cuba following the accident, expressed her anxiety about reuniting with them in Montreal. Marianne Godbout said that the hours following the accident were extremely difficult for her loved ones. "Initially, it was a nightmare because they were on vacation with their 5-year-old, and they were really left alone the day of the accident. It took a long time before they were transported to the hospital. They didn't eat or drink for several hours," she said.

"I tried several times to communicate with Air Transat and it was really difficult," she added. "It was a nightmare." Her sister suffered a concussion and had glass fragments hit her eye, while her brother-in-law needed around 40 stitches to close a wound on his arm.

"They're still receiving basic first aid, but we can't wait for them to return to Quebec to see a doctor here," Marianne said. "I'm very relieved that their 5-year-old son is unharmed." At the time of the statements, Marianne's family was in Toronto and expected to arrive in Montreal the following Tuesday.

"Because they had a child with them, they got a flight to Toronto," she explained. "But it wasn't easy without Air Transat's support. They had to quickly book a hotel because they were being sent two hours by car from Toronto."

Communication with Air Transat was challenging for the Quebecers in Cuba. "It's easy to talk to the office in Montreal, but I spoke with five different agents who gave me five different emergency phone numbers," Marianne said.

"That was the hard part... In Cuba, most of the numbers didn't work, so they had more difficulties with Air Transat's help there," she added. "I can't wait to see them. We're waiting for them today. They are anxious, and it has been very stressful. But they're happy to be alive and that everything is going well."

Advice for Tourists in Similar Situations

In an interview with TVA Nouvelles, insurance broker Louis Cyr advised all travelers to not only purchase travel insurance but also to contact their insurer before departure to understand their policy.

"You need to do it before leaving, even though some protections can be automated... it's the kind of thing you check before you go," he said. Some insurers have age limits, so they may stop covering you or only cover you halfway after age 65, for example."

When a tourist is stranded in a country or an accident occurs, their first instinct should be to call their insurer. "The first call should be to the insurer, beyond the carrier or even the tour operator who sold us the trip," Cyr stated.

"They will redirect us to travel assistance, which will handle the names, phone numbers, authorizations, coverage checks, location details, and spontaneous disbursements we may need to make with certain hospitals," he added.

The traveler might have to pay out-of-pocket expenses that will later be reimbursed by the insurer, or the insurer might make arrangements directly with local workers.

The choice of insurer is crucial. "Both options are possible, and that's where the quality and choice of our insurer come into play," he said.

The expert estimated that between 20% and 30% of Canadians go on vacation abroad without travel insurance. "When we have an insurer with agreements with hospitals in most countries around the world, the insurer that confirms the coverage... will advance the insured's payment and pay the health facilities directly," he indicated.

Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Insurance and Emergencies Abroad

In light of the recent bus accident in Cuba involving Canadian travelers, many questions have arisen about travel insurance and what steps to take in emergencies. Here are some commonly asked questions and answers to help guide travelers.

What should travelers do immediately after an accident abroad?

Travelers should first contact their travel insurer to report the incident and get guidance on the next steps. This includes verifying coverage, arranging for medical care, and possibly coordinating evacuation if needed.

Why is it important to have travel insurance?

Travel insurance provides financial protection and support in case of emergencies, accidents, or unexpected events while traveling. It can cover medical expenses, trip cancellations, lost luggage, and other unforeseen costs.

How can travelers ensure their insurance covers them adequately?

Travelers should review their insurance policies carefully before departure, checking for coverage limits, exclusions, and any age-related restrictions. It's also wise to contact the insurer directly to clarify any doubts and confirm coverage details.

© CubaHeadlines 2024

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