Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I Was Scared To Death - Children Parents on Bus Say They Thought of Boys In Red

Wheel comes off bus taking kids home from basketball game -
Players, coaches say incident prompted memories of 2008 Bathurst tragedy

Click here to read story on CBC.ca
Click here to read story on Canadian Press "Close-call for N.B. basketball team prompts memories of recent tragedy"
Click here to read story in the Globe and Mail "Close call reminds team of N.B. highway tragedy"
Click here to read story on CanadaEast "Close-call for N.B. basketball team prompts memories of recent tragedy"
Click here to read story in Fredericton Daily Gleaner "Minibus has major problems Close call | Tire rolls off minibus carrying team from northern N.B."

Players and coaches from the Jacquet River Tigers basketball team were shaken up after a scary incident with their bus on the weekend that caused many to think of the Bathurst van tragedy from just over a year ago.

The northern New Brunswick school's Grade 8 basketball team was on its way home in a bus from a tournament in Hartland on Sunday when one of the wheels flew off. Although no one was injured, some say things could have been much worse for the 14 Grade 8 basketball players and four parents on the bus.

Glenda Gagne, a coach, said the vehicle began to sway and suddenly she saw a wheel fly across the road and into a snowy ditch.

"I didn't know what happened. I didn't know if we got hit or what happened. I knew it was our tire because we were the only ones on the road," she said.

Though the bus managed to avoid an accident, many on the bus were shaken up.

"I was scared to death because this could have been another Boys in Red," said Emily Legace, another coach, referring to the Bathurst tragedy. "Our kids [are] on this bus and people are going to have to wake up and realize that these are our children."

Bathurst flashback

She said the incident prompted memories of the Jan. 12, 2008, highway accident that killed seven members of the Bathurst High School basketball team and their coach's wife last year.

That accident devastated the northern city and will soon be the subject of a coroner's inquest this spring and has already led the provincial government to overhaul the policies that govern the way sports teams are transported from schools to games.

The Bathurst tragedy involved a 15-passenger van, but this latest incident involved a 24-passenger bus that is owned by the Village of Belledune. It is a community bus, used by sports teams, seniors and other groups.

Brice Noel, who was driving the bus back from the basketball tournament, said he could feel the vehicle begin to vibrate.

"And I started to slow down and the next thing I noticed the wheel [passes] us on the road," Noel said, adding he will no longer drive the vehicle.

Other parents and students on the bus also said they saw the wheel go flying into a snow bank, while others showed off photos they took at the scene of how one of the other original four rear tires was completely flat.

Bus checked in November

Belledune Mayor Nick Duivenvoorden said the bus was inspected and had its bolts torqued just before it left Jacquet River for the tournament. The bus also went through a 21-point inspection in November.

Now it's in a garage in Woodstock, where mechanics are trying to figure out what happened.

The garage's owner said he sees wheels come off vehicles all the time, usually because the nuts holding the wheel in place weren't tightened or the wheel is beaten up.

He said that didn't happen in this case so he can't say for sure what caused the wheel to fly off.