Monday, November 29, 2010

Canadian Press: N.B. moms call for charges against bus owner

This Canadian Press article has appeared in newspapers across Canada.

FREDERICTON - Some mothers who lost children in a school van crash in northern New Brunswick almost three years ago are calling for charges to be laid against the owner of two buses found to have balding tires.

The buses owned by Prestige Bus Service of Sackville, N.B., were carrying about 60 students last week when they were stopped by Nova Scotia highway safety inspectors.

Prestige Charter Bus tiresThe inspectors found that both buses failed to meet tire-tread standards.

Donald Estabrooks, whose family owns Prestige, told the Halifax Chronicle Herald on the weekend that the two worn tires on the tag axles of each bus were identified prior to departure but a decision was made to replace them the next day.

He said tires on tag axles "provide additional support when there are exceptionally heavy loads," and there was never a safety risk.

But the mothers, on their Van Angels website, called the decision to delay changing the tires "sickening" and that Estabrooks "better get charged with a violation of the Motor Vehicle Act."

The New Brunswick government is advising schools not to use the private bus company while provincial officials investigate the matter.

Education Minister Jody Carr said Saturday that the two buses were carrying the students from Marshview Middle School in the Moncton area on an educational field trip to Nova Scotia.

He said "there were tires on both buses that failed to meet its obligation under New Brunswick and Nova Scotia law for tire-tread standards.

"As far as I'm concerned, as minister of education, this is completely unacceptable."

Carr said officials with his department and the Department of Public Safety are gathering facts about the situation and he expects to have more to say in the coming week.

Seven students from Bathurst High School and one adult were killed on Jan. 12, 2008, when the van they were travelling in hit a truck just outside Bathurst during a snowstorm.

The mothers have pushed since the tragedy for stronger safety measures governing buses and vans that carry students.

"We repeat: children are not safe when they are on board vehicles with bald tires," the mothers said on their website. "There is no negotiation in this matter."