Monday, January 9, 2012

Saskatoon Star Pheonix: N.B. moms renew push to ban 'dangerous' vans for school trips

By Marianne White, Postmedia News January 9, 2012 5:06 PM

The mothers of two New Brunswick high-school basketball players who lost their lives in a van crash four years ago lament that little has been done since then to ban 15-passenger vans for student travel.

Click here to read original article in Sasktatoon Star Pheonix on line

Isabelle Hains and Ana Acevedo — respective mothers of Daniel and Javier, who were 17 when they were killed in a 15-passenger van crash in Bathurst, N.B., on Jan. 12, 2008 — have been campaigning for years to educate people about this type of van they say is unfit for passenger transportation.

A coroner's inquest following the Bathurst tragedy — which killed five other students and a teacher — recommended such vans be barred across Canada for student travel. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec have since outlawed the vans for school use.

Hains and Acevedo are now urging the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board to turn down a request from a Prince Edward Island company for a permit to transport university students using 15-passenger vans.

"This shows that some people haven't learned a lesson from our children's deaths," Hains said in a telephone interview.

The company Advanced Shuttle Services Ltd. has applied to get a licence to set up a daily shuttle service, using 15-passenger vans, between P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

"It is incredible to us that, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of our sons' deaths, the EUB would even consider the possibility of allowing Advanced Shuttle Services Ltd. to provide a lower level of safety for inter-city transportation services targeting students," the mothers wrote in a letter sent Sunday to the New Brunswick agency.

Hains stressed that 15-passenger vans are dangerous because they were originally designed as cargo vehicles and lack the normal passenger protections, such as reinforced steel roofs or crash-proof windows, common on other passenger vehicles.

"There's a reason why they're called death traps," Hains said.

She said there is an alternative vehicle that is available, called a Multi Function Activity Bus (D270), which has the same safety standard as the yellow school buses.

A spokesman for the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board stressed the agency will review the permit's request based on the comments it is receiving. If needed, a public hearing could be held in February to determine whether the P.E.I. compan should be granted a licence, said EUB spokesman Dave Young.

Transport Canada is currently conducting a safety review of 15-passenger vans, expected to be released later this year.
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Click here to read original article in Sasktatoon Star Pheonix on line