Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Canadian Press: NB Energy and Utilities Board Will Hold Public Hearings into 15 Passenger Van Permit Application by PEI Company

2007 GMC Savanna 15 passenger van in which 10 migrant workers from Peru were killed on Monday evening, February 6, 2012 in Hampstead, Ontario. The driver of the truck which collided with the van was also killed.

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. Eight people were killed, including seven members of the Bathurst High School Phantoms Basketball team.

Feb 07 2012 17:20:00 - Source: CP [The Canadian Press]

Moms of teens killed in New Brunswick crash renew call to ban 15 passenger vans

BATHURST, N.B. _ Two women whose sons were killed in a 15-passenger van crash four years ago in New Brunswick say the horrific collision in Ontario that killed 11 people reinforces their belief that the large vehicles are ``death traps.''

Isabelle Hains and Ana Acevedo issued a statement Tuesday saying the vans offer no protection to passengers because they were originally designed to carry cargo, not people.

``It scares me that these vehicles are still on the road and that the government doesn't take the initiative to ban these vehicles because they are death traps,'' Hains said in an interview.

``There were a lot of things that went through my mind last night; the memory and the loss of my son, and the boys, and other families that lost their children in 15-passenger vans.''

Hains's 17-year-old son Daniel was among seven high school basketball players killed in January 2008 when the 15-passenger Ford Econoline they were in collided with a transport truck on a slushy highway near Bathurst. Acevedo's 17-year-old son Javier also died in the crash, as did the wife of the team's coach.

Nova Scotia banned the use of 15-passenger vans for public school students before the Bathurst crash. New Brunswick and Quebec followed suit afterward.

In 2010, the federal government ordered a safety review of 15-passenger vans after New Brunswick NDP MP Yvon Godin introduced a private member's bill that would have made it illegal to transport students in vans with more than 10 and fewer than 17 seats.

The Transport Canada review has yet to be completed, Hains said.
It includes an assessment of the safety, stability and braking ability of 15-passenger vans and another category of vehicle called multi-function activity buses.

Hains said the big vans remain popular with daycare centres, youth groups, agricultural workers and shuttle services because they offer a cheaper alternative to a regular school bus.

``(But) they don't have the same protection as the yellow school buses or multi-function activity buses,'' she said. ``They are made like a tin can. When there's any intrusion or rollover, there's no protection for the occupants.''

Multi-function activity buses look like a regular van at the front, but the passenger compartment is the same as a regular school bus.
Typically, they can carry between 14 and 24 passengers.

``I would like the public to be aware that there are alternative vehicles out there,'' Hains said.

In August 2008, the Canadian Standards Association announced new voluntary construction standards for multi-function buses, which include requirements for joint strength, crashworthiness, rollover protection, emergency exits and numerous safety features.

At the time, the association said the new class of buses are intended to be used as a ``safer alternative'' to vehicles not classified as a school bus but are still used to transport groups of school-aged passengers.

Large passenger vans have been involved in a number of serious accidents in the past five years.

In March 2007, a van carrying farm workers overturned on a stretch of highway in Abbotsford, B.C., with 17 people on board.
Three died and the remaining 14 were injured.

On Feb. 3, 2011, a 21-year-old man died in a rollover accident involving a passenger van near Trois-Rivieres, Que. The van was carrying 13 passengers who all worked in the poultry industry.

Six days later, five young men from Quebec died after a passenger van collided with a school bus in Ste-Genevieve de Berthier, Que.
None of the 12 students on the school bus was seriously injured.

Only two months later, in April 2011, one person died and seven others injured when a passenger van overturned on Highway 20 near Montmagny, Que.

The crash Monday near Hampstead, Ont., claimed the lives of 10 farm workers and the driver of a flatbed truck that collided with the van, a
2007 GMC Savanna. Three in the van survived.

Hains and her advocacy group are trying to stop a P.E.I.-based company from using 15-passenger vans to shuttle post-secondary students from Charlottetown to schools in New Brunswick.

Hains said the group is urging New Brunswick's Energy and Utilities Board to reject the permit sought by Advanced Shuttle Service Ltd., based in Summerside, P.E.I.

Calls to the company were not returned.

Dave Young, a spokesman for the board, said there will be public hearings, but he stressed that the agency is not a safety regulator.

However, he said the provincial act that governs the board's decisions says the board must consider whether granting a permit would be ``detrimental to the users of public transportation services.''

-- By Michael MacDonald in Halifax

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