On Monday morning, February 16, I received a phone call from a woman named Margerie Noel. She is the mother of Brice Noel, a basketball coach from Jacquet River, New Brunswick.
What Margerie had to tell me sent shivers up my spine and brought back terrible memories of last year's tragedy in which our sons Javier and Daniel were killed. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
She told me there was almost another accident with a boys basketball team from Jacquet River that was participating in a weekend touranment in Hartland. Her son Brice is the coach. He called her from Woodstock to say that the village "bus" (not sure if it's a yellow bus, one of those 15 passenger vans or a multifunctional vehicle but I will find out more later) they were travelling in with the Jacquet River Basketball team had lost a wheel while on the way back home. What is shocking is that this vehicle had just passed inspection last week.
Apparently, last week Mr. Noel refused to drive the vehicle to the tournament without an inspection done. The garage inspected the vehicle and said it was in good condition to travel.
Mr. Noel left Friday morning to go to Fredericton and the team stayed there overnight. Then on Saturday morning they traveled to Hartland. They took a Hotel in Woodstock Saturday night and when they left Sunday morning, he started having trouble with the vehicle. He was heading for the highway and the vehicle was shimmering. He didn’t feel comfortable driving it any further so he decided the turn around and go back to Woodstock.
On the way back the wheel fell off and rolled down the road with the children in the bus. When Mr. Noel got out the other tire was flat. People on the road picked up the children to bring them back to Woodstock.
This is another tragedy that could have happened with another Basketball team. After what happened to our sons 13 months ago, I am so upset to hear what could have happened to someone else. Has anyone in the Department of Education not learned a thing from the deaths of seven basketball players and the coach's wife last January in Bathurst?
This is another good reason why we need an updated Coroners Act so that the Jury hearing our sons' Inquest can make binding recommendation to the Department of Education. We want a Van Angels law - not guidelines, not rules, not policies, not regulations that are not worth the paper they are written on. We want a law for the school to follow for extracurricular activities.
I remember last year I called Brice Noel because I heard a story that he had stopped in the Miramichi with a basketball team, refusing to drive any further in bad weather. I thought it was the same night of the tragedy of January 12, 2008 and I wanted to speak to him. When I talked to him on the phone he said that actually, the incident occurred the year before, in 2007. He was in the Miramichi, it was storming and he called the RCMP to see what the highway was like from Miramichi to Jacquet river. He was told not to travel. What struck me is he took the time to call to see what the road conditions were. He made the phone call to protect the children. He took a motel in the Miramichi and kept the basketball team safe.
Again, yesterday he made the right choice to turn back to Woodstock for the safety of the Basketball team. I remember telling him, "I wish you were my sons' coach that night. He would still be here today."
I cried so much talking to him last year. This coach thinks safety first for his Basketball team and this is the second time he saved the lives of the children on his team.