On Wednesday, December 17, 2008 I was in Moncton visiting my son Clark when I received a phone call saying there was going to be a meeting on Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m. in Bathurst with Acting Chief Coroner Greg Forestell. He had made a decision about the Coroners Inquest and was going to announce it to the families.
I wasn't sure which way the decision was going to go. Ana and I worked hard on the petitions and the press conference to put pressure on the Coroner to call for an Inquest. We believed it was important to have this inquiry. As soon as we found out Ana and I got ourselves organized to leave Moncton. We drove in separate cars all the way to Bathurst so we could be there in the morning. Waiting until Thursday morning meant another sleepless night. It was a day we had been waiting for a very long time.
On Thursday morning December 18th, 2008 at 9:00 a.m. We arrived at the Dannys Inn where all the families had gathered to hear what the Deputy Chief Coroner decision was going to be. The media were outside waiting and we were very nervous.
Mr. Forestell said it was important that he meet with the families to let the families know the decision in regards to a public inquest. He said it was his decision to have a public inquest and that he had come to that conclusion because of a number of things. The main reason is the complexity of the case, the facts from the RCMP Investigation and Transport Canada, the Department of Education has done some work since the accident and of course, because of the public interest he said he felt it best to call for inquest that would bring all the facts together and announce it publicly.
Ana was sitting beside me I grabbed her hand and squeezed it hard. Greg Forestell explained how the proceedings were to lead up to a Coroners inquest. It will be held here in Bathurst. It could last 10 days or two weeks. He said he will meet with the families individually to find out what our concerns are and make sure that we can address those concerns and talk about how our sons were and will represent the information at the inquest.
He said the inquest does not assign blame or responsibility, rather it presents only the facts and makes recommendations to prevent similar death from occurring in the future. However, he made it clear to us that the recommendation from the coroners inquest are not binding. He said he, as the Acting Chief Coroner, will send out the recommendations to provincial or federal government departments or agencies or to any person that has an leading interest or concern with this inquest.
There was considerable media attention outside our meeting so after it was over I went to Greg Forestell and introduced myself. I told him that he made the right decision. He said that he couldn’t contact me before until all the evidence was put forward. He said that the petition and the community interest helped make his decision. I thanked him. I wanted to talk to the press and let the public know how I felt about the decision. Changes are important for the safety of children travelling for extracurricular activities.
Now our next step is to educate ourselves about Coroners Inquests in New Brunswick. Ana and I will research information about other Coroners Inquests and jurisdictions. We will be prepared when the inquest is ready for our sons so that we know exactly what the proper procedures are.
Thank you to everyone who supported all the families for a Coroner’s Inquest.