Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nanaimo mom continues fight against 15-passenger vans

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NANAIMO, B.C. — A Nanaimo, B.C., mother whose son was killed in a crash in a 15-passenger van is travelling to Ottawa for the introduction this week of a private member’s bill limiting the use of the vans.

Stella Gurr lost her son Michael, 26, in a rollover in Manitoba in 2008. He was on a cross-Canada tour with his Vancouver-based band, The Hotel Lobbyists, when the 15-passenger van in which he was riding in flipped several times along the Trans-Canada Highway.

A year after his death, Gurr corralled family and friends through mass e-mails and spurred hundreds of letters sent to Transport Canada urging officials to take action against the vans she and safety experts have referred to as "death traps."

Research has suggested the vans, originally designed to carry cargo, lack passenger protections, such as reinforced steel frames, have a high centre of gravity and are more prone to rollovers.

Gurr has banded with parents in New Brunswick, who have campaigned for safety changes since the deaths of seven boys and a teacher in a 15-passenger van crash in Bathurst, N.B., in 2008. A coroner’s inquest following that tragedy recommended such vans be banned across Canada for student travel. Several provinces have since outlawed the vans for school use.

Gurr will meet some of the Bathurst parents for the first time on Wednesday, when she lands in Ottawa. On Thursday, she will be at Parliament Hill to support the introduction in the House of Commons of a bill to ban 15-passenger vans for transporting schoolchildren.It is sponsored by NDP MP Yvon Godin of Acadie-Bathhurst.

Following its introduction, the Bathurst parents have planned a news conference. Gurr doesn’t plan to speak but wants to be there for her son.

"For me personally, I gain nothing. I can never get back what I lost," said Gurr. "But I can possibly support the Bathurst mothers and save other lives. That’s my only agenda."

Gurr believes if the vans had been properly licensed and regulated by Transport Canada, the Bathurst boys and her son would be alive.

Nanaimo Daily News
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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