US based Continental Tires Research and Development Division has given three Bathurst mothers an extension so they can find a mini-bus to use for testing at its state of the art testing facility in Michigan.
Isabelle Hains, Marcella Kelly and Ana Acevedo lost their sons in a horrific traffic collision that claimed the lives of four other Bathurst High School basketball players and their coach's wife nearly two years ago.
In October, they discovered that Bathurst High School's new 21 passenger Multi Function Activity Vehicle (MFAV) - which replaced the now banned 15 passenger vans - had all season tires in the front and winter tires in the back.
They say mixed tires is in violation of the province of New Brunswick's own policy and contrary to to the professional opinion of Canada's leading tire experts - including Nigel Moritimer of Transport Canada and John Mahler of Wheels Magazine - who have stated publicly that these type of vehicles need winter tires all around.
The mothers note that in the province of Quebec, less than 100 kms from Bathurst, these 21 passenger vehicles must have winter tires.
On Wednesday they asked the Minister of Education Roland Hache and the Minister of Transport Denis Landry to loan one of its 21 passenger MFAVs for the testing at Continental's facility in January. Bruno Blanchard, the father of Nikki Kelly who was killed in the Bathurst tragedy, has volunteered to drive the mini-bus to Michigan for the testing.
Late yesterday the mothers were relieved to learn that Continental will extend its deadline thus allowing their request to the province of New Brunswick to go through the regular process.
Valerie Kilfoil, Director of Communications for the Province of New Brunswick was reported the Telegraph Journal today as saying that the Department "would need at least until the new year to consider it.
"We will submit it through the request process like we would any other request," she said.
The mothers say they will still try to locate a min-bus elewhere because, based on past experience, they can't be 100% certain the province will actually come through. They have written a Letter to the Editor of every newspaper across Canada asking for a mini-bus to use for testing by Continental.
They say that once the testing in Michigan is complete, they are willing to accept the results, even if it does not support the winter tire theory. But what they are not willing to accept is the status quo.
"These mini-buses are still being used by the Department of Education to transport children to extra curricular activities," says Marcella Kelly. "Until we know for certain, one way or the other, that these vehicles should have all seasons or winter tires on the front, they should be taken off the road. I'm shocked that the Department continues to use the vehicles despite the public safety issues we have raised."
John Mahler is a veteran journalist with Canada's Wheels' Magazine. He said the Education Department is setting itself up for a lawsuit by continuing to use the 21 passenger MFAVs.
"Since the Education department has been told now by many experts that they are wrong, should a personal injury collision occur on one of the mini-busses, the lawyers will have a field day suing the department. Their blatant disregard for the opinions of the tire experts will show that they are liable to some degree. And their refusal to investigate further and enter into a dialogue will harm them if they get sued, which they will."