Saturday, October 2, 2010

Daily Gleaner: Passenger vans to be crash tested

Published Saturday October 2nd, 2010
A5 The Canadian Press

Bathurst High School Phantoms Ford Econoline 350 on the morning of January 12, 2008.Bathurst High School Phantoms Ford Econoline 350 on the morning of January 12, 2008

Click here to read the original article in the Daily Gleaner

HALIFAX - A woman whose son was one of seven students killed in a crash in New Brunswick says she has persuaded the federal transport minister to subject 15-passenger vans to crash-worthiness tests.

Isabelle Hains met with Chuck Strahl on Thursday in Halifax, where the minister was attending a meeting of his provincial and territorial counterparts.

Hains issued a statement Friday saying Strahl made several commitments that represent a breakthrough for improving the safety of school transportation.

"Although I know we have a long road ahead, I truly believe if he follows through on his promises to us ... that we have reached a turning point in the history of youth transportation," she said in a statement.

A spokesman for Strahl's department wasn't immediately able to comment.

Hains's 17-year-old son Daniel was among seven basketball players killed in January 2008 when the 15-passenger van they were in hit a truck on a slushy highway near Bathurst.

The wife of the players' coach also died in the crash.

Among other things, Hains said Strahl promised to publicly release a safety review of 15-passenger vans when it's completed. The review started in June.

At the time, the minister said the review would include an assessment of the safety and stability of vehicles used by schools and community groups.

As well, Hains said Strahl agreed to consider her request to encourage the provinces to pass legislation that would ban the use of 15-passenger vans for youth activities.

Hains has been pushing federal politicians to pass Bill C-522, a private member's bill that would prohibit all schools from transporting students in 15-passenger vehicles.

New Brunswick, Quebec and Nova Scotia have already outlawed the use of the 15-passenger vans for public students.

Hains's lobby group, known as Van Angels, is made up of industry experts, professional school bus drivers and safety advocates.

In her statement, Hains also stressed that she is not part of a class action lawsuit filed last week against the Ford Motor Company.

"I am focused on one issue only: the safe transportation of Canada's youth and I remain committed to that goal," she said.

Stella Benedetti Gurr of Nanaimo, B.C., recently launched the legal action, two years after her 26-year-old son Michael was killed in a 15-passenger van that rolled over near Brandon, Man.

The lawsuit alleges the type of van he was in - a 1994 Ford Econoline - has design defects that make it difficult to handle and susceptible to rollovers.

The allegations contained in the statement of claim - filed last week in Winnipeg - have not been proven in court.

A spokeswoman for Ford Canada has said safety is the company's top priority.

"Ford vehicles meet or exceed all applicable Canadian motor vehicle safety standards," Kerri Stoakley said in an email. "As with all our vehicles, Ford thoroughly tests extended passenger vans to ensure they provide a high level of safety."

Click here to read the original article in the Daily Gleaner