Survivor of Mt Ruapehu bus crash describes terror

A survivor of the Mt Ruapehu bus crash that killed a young girl has described the terrifying experience.

Aleisha Cope says as the vehicle headed to Ohakune from Tūroa Ski Field, passengers heard a loud noise that sounded like the brakes failing, before the bus picked up speed and crashed.

"Is this real? Like that can't be happening, of course the brakes would be working, why would the brakes not be working?

"And then someone else was yelling, 'The brakes aren't working, the brakes aren't working!'

"We were picking up speed and it was all happening really fast after that."

Ms Cope says moments after a honking noise, the brakes seemed to fail.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) CEO Ross Copland, whose bus was involved in the deadly crash, says the company will be investigating whether the brakes did in fact fail.

"That's certainly what the passengers are reporting, and from our perspective, how and why that occurred is something we really want to get to the bottom of."

Ms Cope described how one woman told people to put their helmets on and tried to get the children to the back of the bus. Then the road narrowed and turned left sharply over a bridge.

"I just thought there was no way we're making that, just, 'This is the end, we're all going to die and this is how it's going to end'.

"But we made it through, we just made it around the corner and that's when the bus crashed."

Eleven-year-old Hannah Francis died in the crash, while three others were airlifted to hospital and are in a stable condition.

Hannah's parents say their lives will never be the same, describing the Glen Eden Intermediate school child as a kind-hearted, empathetic person who was the light of their lives.

Hannah Francis.
Hannah Francis. Photo credit: Facebook

Ms Cope suffered a back sprain.

"You hear about these stories, like these tragedies, and you don't ever think that you would be a part of something like that," she told Newshub.

"It was just so awful to just to be on that bus not knowing what was going to happen, thinking that you're driving to your death."

The driver is badly shaken, according to Mr Copland.

"[It was] a pretty traumatic experience and he's got a lot of bruising as well, so he's in reasonably good spirits but obviously shaken up."

Police have taken the Mitsubishi Fuso bus to Whanganui for examination, and RAL has taken the other Fuso it operates out of service.

Mr Copland told Newshub the company has decades of experience in transporting skiers on the mountain, and its vehicles undergo daily checks and regular scheduled maintenance.

RAL reopened the ski field on Monday morning after local iwi performed a karakia following its closure over the weekend.