Thursday, July 28, 2011

Toronto Star: Film about N.B. basketball team’s tragedy and triumph angers grieving mother

FREDERICTON — A New Brunswick mother whose son was among seven teenaged boys killed in a horrific 2008 van accident wants to see a proposed movie on the tragedy scrapped.

Isabelle Hains, whose 17-year-old son Daniel died in the crash, slammed the government of New Brunswick for giving financial support to a movie that “capitalizes on the death of her son and six other boys from the Bathurst High School Phantoms basketball team.”

Click here to read original article in the Toronto Star

The Bathurst resident, who has battled for tougher provincial and federal regulations on school transportation vehicles ever since the tragedy, said the money should have been used to improve student safety.

“The government funded this . . . and it's insulting as a parent who lost my son Daniel and to the six young boys because of unsafe transportation,” Hains said in an interview. “The government is funding (the production) up to $250,000 while at the same time they say they cannot afford Class 2 drivers who are qualified and experienced behind the wheel of these multi-function activity buses.”

The movie — tentatively titled The Phantoms, and expected to air on CBC Television next year — qualified for the now-defunct New Brunswick Film Tax Credit, which tops out at $250,000, according to New Brunswick’s Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport. A spokesperson for the department did not respond to Hains’ criticisms of the investment.

Last week, Dream Street Pictures, a New Brunswick-based production company, announced that it had a deal with the CBC and that shooting for its production centring on the tragedy and the basketball team’s remarkable recovery would begin this fall. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

In January 2008, members of a high school basketball team were returning to Bathurst, N.B., after a game in Moncton when their van collided with a transport truck on a snowy highway. The collision claimed the lives of seven players and the coach’s wife. The crash attracted worldwide attention and devastated Bathurst, a community of 13,000 about 225 kilometres north of Moncton.

One year later, the Phantoms triumphed by winning the provincial AA basketball championship and inspired a community still in mourning.

A coroner’s inquest produced 24 recommendations to improve the safety of students being transported to extracurricular events, particularly during winter.

Several have been implemented. The shoulder of the highway around the accident scene has been rebuilt and snow tires are now mandatory for all New Brunswick school vehicles. Hains, however, is still pushing the remaining recommendations. They include news laws that would prevent student groups from travelling during snowstorms and require qualified school bus drivers with Class 2 licences to drive students on school trips.

In a previous interview with the Daily Gleaner newspaper about the project, Tim Hogan, president of Dream Street, said it would not focus on the accident, but rather what came next.

“That story’s been told,” he told the Gleaner.

“These kids inspired a community that was still healing. And the community then turned around and supported these kids during their championship run. We felt that needed to be chronicled, that we needed to show that to the rest of the country.”

Allan Cormier, whose son Justin was among the students killed, said he supports the idea of making a movie about the tragedy. But the Bathurst resident says he is disappointed that he and none of the other families involved were consulted before the company decided to go ahead with the film.

“Had Hogan had the courtesy to come and speak to us first that would have helped,” Cormier said. “How deep will he go with this movie?

“We only found out about the movie two weeks ago through the local news. That’s pretty sad.”

Click here to read original article in the Toronto Star