Saturday, April 7, 2018

Statement on Humboldt Bronco Hockey Team Tragedy

Our Van Angels group is truly heartbroken by the terrible news of the bus crash involving the Humboldt Bronco hockey team, on Friday April 6, 2018.

We know from our own personal experience that there are no words to adequately describe the emotional devastation of such a sudden and tragic loss on the lives of the families, friends and the community.

“The Humboldt Bronco hockey team bus tragedy has brought back an overwhelming flood of painful memories for me,” said Isabelle Hains, whose 17 year old son, Daniel, was killed along with six  members of the Bathurst High School Phantoms basketball team and the coach's wife on January 12, 2008.

“I know how you are feeling and you are not alone. There are people who love and care for you and want to help. Gather them around you for support.”

Our group sends our heartfelt sympathies and you are all in our thoughts.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Van Angels: On 10th Anniversary "Our Message Remains The Same"

On the tenth anniversary of the ‘Boys In Red’ tragedy, our Van Angels group remains committed to educating the public on the safest mode of transportation for students and other small travelling groups (daycare, farmer workers and church groups etc).

Our message is always the same even after ten years: the Multi-function School Activity Bus (MFSAB) is the best alternative choice for transporting students. Transport Canada (TC) has always said that the safest mode of transportation for students is a yellow school bus. It is mandatory for school children across Canada to be transported in yellow school buses to and from school. Students participating in after school activities should also be driven in an alternative vehicle built to the same high safety standards called the MFSAB.

Over the years, our Van Angels advocacy work for changes in student transportation and public information resulted in TC conducting a safety review of students extra-curricular transportation vehicles, including 15 passenger vans. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) was then tasked with reviewing the results. CCMTA’s findings determined that 15 passenger vans meet all federal manufacturing requirements/standards and that they were generally found to be as safe as other highway vehicles of similar capacities.

Similar capacity vehicle, including the 15 passenger van means any vehicle with a designated seating capacity of more than 10 and is defined under the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (MVSR) as a bus. Not all buses are built the same.

When the CCMTA review stated that 15 passenger vans were as safe as other highway vehicles of similar capacities, all this means is that all vehicles on Canadian roads must meet minimum Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). The actual truth is that the yellow school bus and MFSAB is built to a higher safety standard. Imagine the uproar if our federal government would of said anything different. The regulators and auto manufacturers share common interest and protect each other when it comes to saying that one vehicle is safer than another. Auto manufactures are only required by law to meet minimum safety standards. Depending on the make and model, manufacturers may chose to build their vehicles to standards higher than the CMVSS, but the yellow school buses and MFSAB must always be built to a mandatory higher safety standard.

We believe that the 15 passenger van is NOT the best alternative choice for student or small group transport. This type of “bus” is only required to meet minimum safety standards.

The minimum safety requirements is what made the 15 passenger van dangerous: lower roof crush resistance then a family car, lack of reinforced sides and a high centre of gravity. They were originally manufactured to carry cargo not humans.

Safety standards have increased over the past 10 years but if you are in an accident (rollover and or collision) you still want the chance of survivability and nothing will help if the compartment around you crushes like a tin can. This is the reason our Van Angel group fought to bring the MFSAB into the Canadian Motor Vehicle Classification system. Our boys were killed in 15 passenger vans that only met minimum vehicle safety standards.

Both the yellow school bus and the MFSAB have reinforced body side panels (CMVSS #221 School Bus Body Joint Strength), a rollover protection cage (CMVSS #220 Rollover Protection) and emergency back exit, (CMVSS #217 Bus Emergency Exit).

Safe transportation for students and small groups does not need to be an issue. There are alternative vehicles available that are built to yellow school bus standards called the MFSAB.

The Boys In Red tragedy killed 7 innocent boys and the coaches wife. We do not want any other family to lose a child.

Isabelle Hains who lost her son Daniel on January 12, 2008 says “If I knew what I know now I would of never have let my son in those 15 passenger vans known as ‘death traps on wheels’.

Written by: 

Isabelle Hains, who lost her 17 year old son, Daniel, in the ‘Boys In Red’ tragedy, when the 15 passenger van they were travelling in collided with a semi-tractor trailer in the early morning of January 12, 2008.

Stella Benedetti Gurr, who lost her 26 year old son, Michael, in a single vehicle 15 passenger van rollover on September 25, 2008.

10th Anniversary of Boys in Red January 12, 2018: Isabelle Hains’ Tireless Activism in Wake of Son’s Death Changed the Face of Student Transportation Safety in Canada

By Melynda Jarratt

The last time Isabelle Hains saw her son Daniel alive was on the morning of Friday, January 11, 2008, when she dropped him off at Bathurst High School.
It was the first week of classes after Christmas holidays and Daniel’s last semester before graduation in June. On the short drive to school, mother and son talked about his upcoming 18th birthday party and of his plans to postpone university for a year to travel overseas.

But Isabelle was concerned about an Environment Canada winter storm alert for later in the day. Daniel and his fellow players on the BHS Phantoms basketball team had an away game that evening in Moncton and it was a long drive back at night. The boys would travel in a 15-passenger van driven by their coach, Wayne Lord.

"Don't worry Mom" said Daniel "if the weather is bad, we'll spend the night in Moncton."

With a hug and a goodbye kiss, Daniel disappeared into the school.

Eight minutes after midnight, while on the return trip from Moncton, the High School's 15-passenger van collided with a semi-tractor trailer. Seven of the basketball players and the coach's wife were killed. Nothing would ever be the same for the victims' families, the City of Bathurst or the province of New Brunswick.

Within weeks of her son's death, Isabelle started asking questions about why the basketball team was on the road that night. In her search for answers, Isabelle was transformed from a self-described "ordinary" mother into one of Canada's leading transportation safety advocates, turning her personal grief into a national student transportation safety campaign.

Immediately after the tragedy 15-passenger vans were banned in New Brunswick for student transportation. Later Quebec, PEI, and Newfoundland also banned the vehicles and a patchwork quilt of prohibitions emerged across Canada. But as Isabelle soon found out, the same vans were already banned in Nova Scotia since 1994 after a similar tragedy involving a school hockey team.

Isabelle was also shocked to discover that the NB Department of Education already had a student transportation policy in place with guidelines to protect students. The guideline states that groups travelling out of town should be prepared to stay overnight if weather or road conditions present a hazard.

“The problem,” says Isabelle, “Is that the policies, regulations, rules and guidelines were not being enforced by school officials or anyone else.”

She and another mother started a website,, demanding that the province order a Coroners Inquest into the tragedy. After months of relentless lobbying the Inquest was held in May 2009. The inquest resulted in 24 recommendations to improve student transportation including one which stated that 15-passenger vans should be banned for student use across Canada.

After the Inquest, Isabelle thought it was all over: what she found out was that the work had just begun.

In October 2009 Isabelle discovered the Multi-Function Activity Bus (MFAB) being used by BHS was outfitted with all season tires in the front and winter tires on the back. The MFAB had been donated by local busineses in the wake of the tragedy to replace the now banned 15-passenger vans. Its bright red colour with the Phantoms logo was becoming a familiar sight around town.

Isabelle contacted leading tire experts in Canada and the United States. They agreed the BHS bus should have winter tires all around.

“It seemed a no-brainer to us,” says Isabelle, “But when we challenged the provincial government to change the tires they refused.”

In February 2010, she and two other mothers travelled to Continental Tires’ research facility in Michigan to prove the importance of all winter tires on MFABs. The same day, Transport Canada released similar test results advising that winter tires were recommended on these type of buses, forcing the NB Departments of Education and Transportation to act upon this proof.

In May 2010, Isabelle and the Van Angels group journeyed to Ottawa to witness the introduction of Bill C-522 by Acadie-Bathurst MP, Yvon Godin. By now the group had grown to include other safety advocates from unions representing school bus drivers across Canada. The Bill would have made it a criminal offense to use 15-passenger vans for student transport in Canada. Although the Bill was never passed, one month later Transport Canada announced a safety review of 15-passenger vans for student transport and tasked the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) with developing a national approach.

This set the stage for a fall 2010 CCMTA annual meeting in Halifax with Transport Canada and the provincial and territorial Ministers of Transportation. At the same time, Isabelle's Van Angels had aligned themselves with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) which firmly believed that the Multi-Function School Activity Bus (MFSAB), built to school bus standards, would be an acceptable alternate vehicle for extra-curricular student transport.

At the Halifax meeting, the group was adamant that crash-worthiness testing be included in the safety review. They also requested the recognition of a MFSAB as a sub-category of a school bus in the Canadian motor vehicle classification system.

Two years later, in the crash-worthiness testing, the official Safety Review showed that passengers in a MFSAB had a greater chance of survival than those in a 15-passenger van. This was a significant victory for Isabelle and the Van Angels.

That same year, the book DRIVEN by Richard Foot revealed the harsh and surprising truth behind the Boys In Red tragedy and the Van Angels’ determination for justice and accountability.

“DRIVEN is an important book that tells a side of the story not covered in the media,” said Isabelle.

Then in 2013 the CCMTA released 'Safety Guidelines for the Use of 15-Passenger Vans'. The pamphlet clearly stated that these vans handle differently than other passenger vehicles when fully loaded with people and or luggage or equipment. It also advised drivers to slow down on wet or icy roads as the vans do not respond well to abrupt steering manoeuvres.

“The guidelines confirm how dangerous 15-passenger vans are,” says Isabelle, asking, "Why would anyone put their precious children in these death traps?”

In 2015, after nearly five years of behind the scenes lobbying and consultation with federal transportation officials, a new and distinct definition called the MFSAB was added to the vehicle classification system under the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

Isabelle explains: "The MFSAB was a huge accomplishment. It means that school boards looking for a safe vehicle to transport students to extra-curricular activities have an alternative to 15-passenger vans. The MFSABs are built to the same high motor vehicle safety standards as the yellow school bus and we are hopeful that they will become the most logical and best choice for student transportation in Canada.”

In the closing days of 2017, the City of Bathurst passed a resolution that an official day of mourning would be forever recognized on January 12 in honour of The Boys in Red.

Every year on that day, flags will be flown at half mast in remembrance of the seven members of the Bathurst High School Phantoms basketball team and the coaches wife.

"For such a long time, I felt Daniel and his teammates had been forgotten,” says Isabelle. “It took a new mayor and new administration to make a promise that our boys will always be remembered."

On the tenth anniversary of the Boys in Red tragedy, Isabelle Hains and her Van Angels group can take some solace knowing that their tireless efforts brought national attention and positive changes to student transportation safety in Canada.

“At the beginning, all I wanted to know was why my son Daniel and six other boys died,” said Isabelle. “When we got the Inquest and discovered the extent of the educational system’s failures to protect our children, I knew we had no choice but to force changes so that no other parent would have to go through what we did.”

"If I had known then what I know now, I would never have let my son get in that van that day,” says Isabelle. “I lost my son and I’ll never get him back, but Daniel, Javier, Nathan, Justin, Codey, Nickolas, Nikki and Beth Lord did not die in vain. Their names will forever be connected to student transportation safety in Canada.”

Global News: Bathurst Boys in Red tragedy 10 years later

Fri, Jan 12: It’s been 10 years since a 15-passenger van carrying the Bathurst High School boys’ basketball team crashed in New Brunswick, killing eight people. One of the boys’ mother has fought to have that type of van banned in New Brunswick. She won that battle but as Shelley Steeves reports, she is still fighting to have other provinces follow suit.

To view original article on Global TV, click here.

CTV: Bathurst marks 10th anniversary of van tragedy that killed eight people

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

FREDERICTON -- It was just after midnight on Jan. 12, 2008, when a 15-passenger van carrying the Bathurst High School boys' basketball team lost control on a slushy highway.

To view original article on CTV, click here.

An oncoming transport truck tore the van apart, killing seven teenage players and the wife of their coach -- and brought a grief-stricken northern New Brunswick community to its knees.

"I had never seen anything like it. There was such profound and widespread grief throughout the community," said John McLaughlin, the then-superintendent of the Bathurst school district, who added the tragedy brought messages of condolence from around the world.

"The tragedy of the loss of the promise of those young men, what they could have been and what they dreamed of. That just resonated with people everywhere."

Five of the boys who died -- Javier Acevedo, Nathan Cleland, Justin Cormier, Codey Branch, and Daniel Hains -- were 17 years old. The other two students were Nick Quinn, 16, and Nikki Kelly, 15.

"Part of me died that day when I lost my son. Nothing changes for me. Those 10 years -- it's just like yesterday," Isabelle Hains, Daniel's mother, said in an interview.

"I drove him to school that morning and I don't know why he spoke about his future plans that morning with me. He said he wanted to travel to Europe and he talked about his birthday coming up, and it was just like a normal day for me. I never expected that by midnight that night I would never see him again."

The team was returning from a night game in Moncton, N.B. The coach's wife, Beth Lord, 51, was also killed. Coach Wayne Lord, who was driving the 11-year-old van, his daughter and two team members survived the crash.

The truck driver was not hurt.

Separate reports by the RCMP and Transport Canada identified safety problems with the 15-seat-van, including worn all-season tires, broken brakes and a rusting body.

The RCMP report said the 1997 Ford Club Wagon would not have passed safety inspection at the time of the accident.

In the years that followed, Hains and other family members successfully pushed for changes in the vehicles and rules used for student travel.

McLaughlin, now the province's deputy education minister, said the tragedy brought about important changes, and the transport of students is safer now because of it.

"School districts are required to make sure that there is compliance with these policies any time students travel. I think the system is safer for students now than it was then. I only wish, as an educational leader, that it had been the practice 10 years ago," he said.

Some provinces have begun using mini-buses known as multi-function school activity buses, and halted the use of the 15-passenger vans for student transport.

"They banned them in Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, Quebec and New Brunswick, and there are districts across the country that don't use them either, but there are schools out there that are still using them, and I say shame on them," said Hains.

"Daniel, Javier, Justin, Codey, Nickolas, Nathan, Nikki and Beth Lord did not die in vain that night. Their names will be forever connected to student transportation all across Canada. They will never be forgotten," she said.

The deaths inspired a 2012 CBC TV movie -- not on the tragedy, but on the events that followed: A year later, the reconstituted Bathurst High School Phantoms won the provincial title.

Starting this year, the City of Bathurst will observe a day of mourning on the anniversary by flying flags at half mast.

Mayor Paolo Fongemie said they decided against any ceremonies because it is still very emotional for many in the community.

"The wound is still very much alive. We are still hurting a lot. We wanted the 10th anniversary to be more of a quiet reflection to always remember and never forget that day," Fongemie said.

A portable basketball net was erected at the crash site in the hours following the accident. Ten years later, it remains, adorned with pictures of the victims -- known as the Boys in Red, for their red jerseys.

It is a common sight to see people stopped by the side of the highway to pay their respects.

"I think about this most days, whether I'm driving past that monument or not. It is something that impacted, not just me, but so many people. I think about the boys and Beth. I think about their families for whom I have tremendous empathy and respect," McLaughlin said.

Hains calls the site "sacred" and planned to be there at midnight, as she has been for the last nine years, to light candles in the snow and remember.

"All the families share the same loss, and that love for our boys is for eternity," she said.

To view original article on CTV, click here.

Telegraph Journal: Family, Friends Gather at Boys in Red Vigil for 10th Anniversary

  Isabelle Hains holds a vigil each Jan. 12 at the Boys in Red memorial along Route 8.
Her son Daniel died in the accident that killed seven Bathurst High School
basketball players and the coaches wife.
Photo: K. Bryannah James/The Northern Light
by Bryannah James for the Northern Light

To view original article in Telegraph Journal, click here.

Candles flickered beside the 'Boys in Red' highway memorial in the early morning hours Friday as mourners gathered for a moment of silence to honour seven young basketball players and a teacher who lost their lives a decade ago.

People bowed their heads as the clock struck 12:08 a.m., marking 10 years since the Bathurst High School Phantoms - Javier Acevedo, Codey Branch, Nickolas Quinn, Nathan Cleland, Daniel Hains, Justin Cormier and Nicholas Kelly - and Elizabeth Lord, their coach's wife, were killed when their 15-passenger van collided with a tractor-trailer.

There was no noise from the highway as Isabelle Hains, Daniel's mother, was embraced by friends in front of the basketball net memorial. Each year since 2008, Hains has held a vigil at the crash site in memory of the boys.

"This is where the place my son was at his last moment," she said. "And I feel for me this is the place I need to be every year. I just feel that I need to come here [and] light the candles, remember the boys, especially on this highway."

Hains prepares the site for the vigil each year. She digs out the site, washes the teddy bears left for the boys from years past, brushes the snow from the backboard to reveal the photos of the seven players and strings lights around the net. On Friday, these lights twinkled in stark contrast to the clear, black night stretching along the highway.

Vehicles lined the road as members of the community made the trek to the net down a snow-packed path flanked by three-foot high walls of snow.

Maggie Lavigne has come to the vigil every year since the accident.

"We talk and we just share all the memories. We keep their memory alive - that's the main thing," she said.

Lavigne brought a teddy bear for Daniel like she has every year since the accident. This one will be placed beside two others already zip-tied to the white cross in his memory. The cross stands about 20 feet from the basketball net.

"He was a big teddy bear - that's Dan," said Lavigne.

Lavigne's nephew was a friend of Daniel in high school and she's friends with Isabelle.

"Dan was like, a big part of our life. He was always around my house," she said..

Those who gathered at the memorial chatted, sometimes laughing, others remaining quiet as the rumble of transport trucks and vehicles echoed along the highway.

Emergency flashers from a police car parked on the shoulder of the road are a reminder for motorists to slow down.

Const. Kurtis Ross with Bathurst Police Department was friends with some of the players. The École secondaire Népisiguit alumnus visited the memorial for the first time during the vigil.

"This time of the year I always remember the boys and I knew Codey Branch, personally.," Ross said.

"And I've hung around with Daniel quite a bit too, you know. It's nice to be able to be here tonight and take part in this ceremony."

Glancing at the backboard, Hains reminisced about moments she had with the boys who were no strangers to her home, affectionately referring to some by their nicknames. She spoke about the paths they were on in their lives and wondered what they would have gone on to do if they were here now.

"When I see his [Daniel's] picture up there and I come here, what I miss is that he was a hugger," Hains said. "And he always hugged me."

To view original article in Telegraph Journal, click here.

Chronicle Herald: Tractor-trailer, school bus in collision on Kellys Mountain

This screen grab from a Department of Transportation webcam shows
a LifeFlight helicopter as it sits on Highway 105 after a collision
between a tractor-trailer and a school bus on Friday morning
SYDNEY — RCMP and rescue officials are on scene after a bus and tractor-trailer collision near the English Mountain Road on Kellys Mountain.

To read original article in Chronicle Herald, click here.

Michelle MacLeod, spokeswoman for the Cape Breton-Victoria regional school board said 11 students from the Baddeck area were being transported to Memorial Composite High School in Sydney Mines.

RCMP said in a news release that the crash, which happened near the crest of Kellys Mountain, occurred at 8:08 a.m.

They said that the bus "collided with a trailer that had been left partially in the roadway overnight."

All of the students were assessed on site by EHS and it was determined that none of them was seriously hurt.

A second bus was sent to the site and transported the students to hospital in Baddeck to be reassessed. Parents of the students involved were all notified by the board.

An RCMP news release said the students' injuries were limited to "bumps and bruises."

The Jaws of Life had to be used to extricate the driver from the bus. RCMP said the driver suffered "serious injuries" in the crash and was transported to hospital in a LifeFlight helicopter for treatment.

A crisis team was also sent by the school board to Baddeck Academy and two crisis intervention workers were sent to the hospital to meet parents and students as they arrived, MacLeod said.

Board staff also attended the scene, although they couldn’t access the crash site directly as it was cordoned off, MacLeod said.

She referred any other comment on the collision itself to the RCMP.

Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal is advising that Kellys Mountain is currently closed because of the crash.

An RCMP spokesperson said it’s unclear when the highway may reopen, saying once its collision analyst arrives on scene a determination will be made whether it is safe to reopen the road to a single lane of traffic.

To read original article in Chronicle Herald, click here.