Monday, January 9, 2012

Toronto Star: Moms warn New Brunswick not to approve ‘death traps’

Richard J. Brennan National Affairs Writer

Two New Brunswick mothers are pleading with the province not to allow the introduction of 15-passenger vans, which they say are “death traps” that claimed their sons’ lives along with five other basketball players and a coach’s wife four years ago.

Click here to read original article in the Toronto Star on line

“There is well known documented scientific research about these 15-passenger vans and the end result is that they are death traps on wheels,” said Isabelle Hains, whose son Daniel was 17 years old when he was killed on January 12, 2008.

The Bathurst High Phantoms were returning from a game in Moncton, N.B., about 220 kilometres away, when the accident occurred on Highway 8 outside Bathurst, a city of about 12,500 people. The seven students were killed when their van, driven by the coach, collided with a transport truck.

Hains and Ana Acevedo, whose 17-year-old son Javier was also killed, said that an application to the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board by Advanced Shuttle Services Ltd. of PEI for a permit to transport university students using 15 passenger vans “proves they have learned nothing from our sons’ deaths.”

Hains said these vans were intended to carry cargo, not people. “There is an increase in rollover and fish tailing when they have to do a quick manoeuvre on the highway at a high speed,” she told the Star, noting that she has been studying the road worthiness of these types since her son died.

David Anderson, owner of Advanced Shuttle Services, said while he is sympathetic to the loss of life in the accident, the fact remains that his company is already licensed in Nova Scotia to operate 15-passenger vans.

“It’s not fair to say that all (15) passenger shuttles are dangerous. They are just not,” Anderson told the Star, adding that all vans used in New Brunswick would be registered in Nova Scotia, where he said there are regular provincial inspections.

After the deadly crash, police discovered the school van, a 15-seat 1997 Ford Econoline club wagon, had worn tires, badly adjusted brakes and was riddled with rust. And though the van had passed a safety test in late October 2007, it was not roadworthy when it headed to Moncton for a basketball game in January, according the RCMP mechanic who inspected it.

In the wake of the crash, 15-passenger vans were banned from school use in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and 25 U.S. states. No similar bans exist in Ontario, but some schools, including Grand River Collegiate Institute in Waterloo, stopped using a passenger van after the accident.

David Young, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board, said the board will decide Feb. 7 how to proceed on the application, but added a hearing is tentatively scheduled for the end of February to consider the scheduled service application.

In their letter to the energy board, Hains and Acevedo said Advanced Shuttle Services is targeting university and college students, many of them who just four years ago mourned the deaths of seven basketball players from Bathurst.

“Had we known what we know today about 15-passenger vans, we would never have allowed our boys to be passengers in that type of vehicle and our sons would still be alive today,” the letter stated.

Click here to read original article in the Toronto Star on line