N.B. restricts use of 15-passenger vans
Published Friday, January 18, 2008 6:27PM EST
The New Brunswick government has suspended the use of 15-seat passenger vans to transfer students to and from school following a horrific crash that killed seven students and a teacher from Bathurst, N.B., last week.
Education Minister Kelly Lamrock said Friday that use of the vans will be suspended for the remainder of the 2007-2008 school year; however, he added there is no evidence to suggest the type of vehicle used played a role in the tragic accident, which involved a boy's basketball team returning from a game in Moncton.
"A number of questions have been raised this week in the aftermath of the accident that has created an air of uncertainty about 15-passenger vans," he said in a statement.
"Some of the questions are based on actions of other jurisdictions, while some may be outright guesses."
The minister called on all public and private schools along with student councils in the province's 14 school districts to restrict the use of passenger vans for transport to and from extra-curricular activities.
"Given the sensitivity surrounding the accident in Bathurst, it is unimaginable that any parent, teacher, student council leader, coach, principal or administrator would be comfortable using this vehicle, in the current climate of doubt around the use of 15-passenger vans," Lamrock said.
"I believe that it is in the best interest of everybody who has to make decisions for safe student travel to be spared having to wrestle with this option until all the facts are known."
The 15-seat Ford Club Wagon lost control early Saturday on an icy highway, slamming into a tractor trailer just south of Bathurst. Seven boys were killed along with the coach's wife, Beth Lord.
The teammates were remembered during a mass funeral in Bathurst on Wednesday, while a private ceremony was held for Lord, 51, on Thursday.
The RCMP and Transport Canada are investigating the accident. An interdepartmental working group will review the facts of the crash and report their findings back to the education minister, Lamrock said.
Frank Wilson, a civil engineer who's co-ordinating the team investigating the accident for Transport Canada, told The Canadian Press Wednesday that the predominant factors in the crash were icy roads rather than possible flaws in the vehicle.
The crash has prompted some Canadian schools to take their 15-seat buses out of service, while other school boards have announced they will be reviewing their travel policies.
British Columbia's transportation and education ministers said the vehicles have been used for decades by schools without serious injury; however, B.C. officials said they will review the use of the passenger vans by schools.
Schools in Nova Scotia are prohibited from using the vans while in the U.S., schools are banned from buying or leasing new 15-seater vans.
CTV News obtained a letter the Canadian Standards Association sent last July to Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, identifying the need for "a new classification of bus intended to replace the 15-passenger vans from transporting children to and from school-related activities."
The federal government has said it's reviewing the regulations surrounding the transportation of children, but it could take months to complete its investigation.
White has given his full support for using a "multi-function activity bus" that's made in Canada but mostly used in the U.S.
In the U.S., 15-seat van roll-overs have killed more than 1,500 people in the past 10 years.
With files from the Canadian Press