Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 3: Another Tough Day and Some Problems in the Court Room

Day Three, May 6 began at 9 am when we arrived at the courthouse. It was terrible weather outside, rainy and cold so we were glad to get quickly into our seats at the front row of the courtroom.

Tim Daley, Survivor

Tim Daley was the first witness to appear on Wednesday. Our hearts went out to this young man, now 18 years old, a tall, good looking young fellow with bright eyes and a gentle smile. He wore his BHS Phantoms light sports jacket, with a black stripe down the arms and a red ribbon for the Boys In Red on his chest.

He recalled details of January 11 / 12, 2008 that filled out a bit more of the picture. We heard how it was snowing in Moncton when the team left for Bathurst that night. We heard how as they approached Bathurst on the road from Miramichi, he was "nervous" and could hear the slush hitting the side of the van and the tires. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the lights of the Mack Truck appeared, the van began to slide and everything went black. He woke up in the ditch. Tim was badly injured and we know how difficult it must have been for him to testify. He lost all his friends that night and we hope that he can overcome this tragedy and go on to a succesful and happy life.

First Two Witnesses at the Scene

The next two witnesses were the first civilians to arrive at the scene. The young couple were driving towards Miramichi when they came upon the van and beyond that, the large tractor trailer. Their testimony was graphic and jarring. They spoke of the bad road conditions, of encountering the driver who asked them to call 911, of comforting the survivors and confirming that all the rest of the passengers were deceased. We never met this couple before so after their testimony was over we went out into the hallway to speak with them for the very first time. We never knew who they were and to meet them face to face was very emotional. We wished them a good life, and told them that we hope that they can put that night behind them.

Mr. Lee Jean, Department of Transportation

Mr. Jean spoke about the protocols that the DOT follows in stormy weather, he spoke about the new Winter Piolot project and said that the storm began in the Bathurst area at about 3 pm. There was a bit of discussion about the drop between the pave and the shoulder of the road, an interesting coversation which leads us to wonder about highway maintenance on that stretch of road. We found out from the CUPE members present, however, that "freezing rain" is considered an emergency and in emergencies the Supervisor, a Mr. Doiron whom we have not heard from yet, could have called out more plows. At the time of the tragedy there was only one plow and one grader on the highway. As the snow plow operator testified the day before, the grader went behind him on that stretch of highway and in doing so, would have removed the salt that Godin has just laid down.


As with the testimony the day before with Mr. Reginald Godin, the snowplow operater , it would have been extremely useful to have a map of the area projected on the screen which is sitting there not being used.

It is VERY difficult to follow the conversation when they are always talking about route number #, roads #, highways #, and north, south, east and west, brooks, rivers, and place names along the highway. Anyone who is not familiar with that area of Bathurst, and there are many, would be completely lost.

It is beyond us, how, with all the modern technology available to this Coroners Inquest, how they cannot seem to access these simple tools to help the JURY, the parents, and other interested parties in the court room understand what they are talking about.


Also another serious problem is that there is an air conditioner running from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm and it so loud that you cannot hear some witnesses, who are not provided with a microphone. Persons with a loud voice, you might be able to hear, but most of the testimony is difficult, if not impossible to hear because the witnesses have quiet voices. The Department of Transportation rep had a bad cold and he spoke in a very low voice. The Coroner has to be made aware of this serious defiency in testimony and we intend to tell him about it today.

RCMP Accident Reconstructionist Expert, Const. Annie Nielson

Const. Annie Nielson gave a detailed explanation of the crash scene which was supplemented by photographs from her Reconstruction Report. These photos were displayed on the screen through an LCD projector hooked up to the laptop (which has been sitting there not being used since Monday, so we know it can be integrated into the testimony). More on her testimony later, as it was highly technical but she did a very good job explaining it to the group (and she has a good strong voice so it was not a problem hearing her).


Nielson will continue with her testimony today and we understand that Const. Yves Allain of the RCMP, who is the lead investigator for the crash, will also testify.