'This is the only time something is going to get done,' local councillor says of crash site
Meredith MacLeod, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, April 9, 2018 12:25PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 9, 2018 6:04PM EDT
The scene of Friday’s horrific crash between a bus carrying a hockey team to a playoff game and a loaded tractor trailer is a wide open, flat expanse of rural Saskatchewan, save for a stand of evergreen trees lining the southeast corner at a right angle.
Residents know the intersection as a dangerous one where cars and trucks regularly blow through a stop sign. Locals call the intersection Armley Corner. It’s where the north-south Highway 35 and the east-west Highway 335 meet just north of Tisdale, Sask. Both highways have a 100 km/h speed limit.
In the wake of Friday’s collision that killed players and coaches of a Saskatchewan minor hockey team, the bus driver, a volunteer statistician and a play-by-play announcer, local officials are already saying they will push the province for changes at the crossing.
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A neighbour was the first on the scene after the crash, rushing over with blankets and helping first responders, says Coun. Bradley Schiltroth, who represents the area where the crash occurred.
That man, who is not talking publicly, has been demanding the province install rumble strips at the intersection for at least six years, he told the councillor. The resident has been told there is no money to do that and the intersection doesn’t have enough traffic to justify the measure, says Schiltroth.
“How much does it cost to put grooves in the road?”
Schiltroth spoke to CTVNews.ca Monday morning just before heading into a budget meeting where he expected the tragedy to top the agenda. He says that he wants to see rumble strips installed and speed limits lowered in all directions approaching the crossing. He said it’s easy to speed and to go into a “trance” while driving Saskatchewan’s open roads.
“Rumble strips can snap you out of that… but it’s out of our hands.”
Both highways involved are governed by the province. Schiltroth says he will press both provincial and federal officials on the issue and expects many of his colleagues want to do the same.
“This is the only time something is going to get done. If we let it slide, people move on and become complacent.”
The tremendous force of the crash, evident in the news photos of the two mangled vehicles and widespread debris, sent both truck and bus into the northwest snow-covered field, kitty-corner to the stand of trees. They were left on their sides, with the front of the bus torn off, and the truck’s trailer twisted and overturned.
Each of the 29 people on the bus headed to a playoff game was either killed or injured, some very seriously.
Police investigators are examining impact photos, skid marks, weather conditions and the impact of the 5 p.m. sunlight to see if any were factors in the latest crash. What is known is that the bus was headed north and the truck loaded with packaged peat moss was travelling west on a two-lane highway governed by a stop sign.
The truck’s driver, the only occupant of the truck, was not hurt.
A flashing red light and oversized stop sign was installed in the east-west direction of the intersection after another devastating crash in 1997. It claimed the lives of a family of six, including three young children after their pickup truck collided with a semi-truck and burst into flames. The police concluded the pickup truck ran the stop sign.
Six white crosses still mark the scene of that crash.
Dylan Fiddler, who lost his mother, aunt, uncle, and three cousins that day, spent his teenage years passing through the intersection several times a week as equipment manager for a local Junior B hockey team.
"You almost want to drive with your eyes closed through that corner. It's not a very enjoyable place to be for myself, anyway,” he told The Canadian Press.
The highways see a lot of semi-truck traffic due to local agriculture and industry, says Schiltroth, a farmer who has served on council for about a year and a half.
He farms a section just down Highway 335 and says he’s personally witnessed a transport truck and a car fly through the stop sign. He knows many others who have witnessed close calls.
But the councillor says the trees don’t play a role when the east-west highway already has a stop sign.
-With files from The Canadian Press
A steady stream of people have been coming here . They are bringing flowers. Some just stopping to pray. Many want to see a permanent memorial here. A monument. @CTVNews— Jill Macyshon (@JillMacyshonCTV) April 9, 2018
As a councillor in the RM where this tragedy has happened. And this being the second multi fatal accident at that intersection. I will lobby for better signage and lighting at this intersection so this never happens again. #humboltstrong @PremierScottMoe @MPRandyHoback— Ian Boxall (@BoxallIan) April 7, 2018