Thursday, February 9, 2012

National Post: Families of Hampstead, Ontario, crash victims hire lawyer to probe van

By Natalie Stechyson

A lawyer representing the families of four of the victims of the crash Monday that claimed 11 lives in southwestern Ontario says he’ll explore whether the van the men were riding in had anything to do with the tragic outcome.

Click here to read original article in National Post

“We will be filing the paperwork with the (Workplace Safety and Insurance Board) and the police to get more details as to what happened and to explore the liability situation,” Toronto lawyer Juan Carranza told Postmedia News on Thursday.

“It may be with the van, if there’s a product liability with the van.”

Eleven people died as a result of Monday’s crash after a truck slammed into a 15-passenger van at an intersection near the tiny hamlet of Hampstead.

Ontario Provincial Police said Wednesday the van failed to stop at a stop sign. The truck had the right of way.

All of the 10 van victims, who hailed from Peru, were migrant workers who were leaving a shift at a farm where they had been vaccinating chickens. Three men survived the crash and remain in hospital.

The lawyer stressed there is no evidence of any liability yet and that he’s still in the information-gathering stage of legal proceedings. Much of the work will involve making sure the families get whatever claims to which they’re entitled, Carranza said.

He’s representing the families of four cousins who perished in Monday’s crash but he declined to give their names.

The mothers of two boys who were killed in a passenger-van crash in New Brunswick four years ago have called this week’s accident further proof that 15-passenger vans are “death traps.”

Daniel Hains and Javier Acevedo were 17 when they were killed in a 15-passenger van crash in Bathurst, N.B., on Jan. 12, 2008. The crash killed seven high school basketball players and one adult.

Their mothers have been campaigning since then to educate people about this type of van, which they say is unfit for passenger transportation.

In June 2010, the federal government announced that Transport Canada would review the safety standards applicable to 15-passenger vans.

Results from the final phase of testing are expected in the next month.

The lawyer, Mr. Carranza, this week visited Juan Ariza, 35 — one of the three survivors of Monday’s crash — at the London Health Sciences Centre, where he remains in critical condition.

Mr. Ariza is in a lot of pain, physically and mentally, Mr. Carranza said. He has broken bones and lacerations to his liver and spleen.

The accident happened after Mr. Ariza’s first day of work, Mr. Carranza said, and the young man had only been living in Canada for three days. Some of the other victims had only been in Canada for a very short time as well, Mr. Carranza said.

“He seemed to be overwhelmed. Everything that’s been happening — the loss of relatives in this accident,” Mr. Carranza said.

Mr. Ariza was related to most of the victims, Mr. Carranza said, but he wasn’t positive of the exact relationship beyond the fact they were members of an extended family.

The families of the victims are in shock, Mr. Carranza said.

“This is tragic news for them. Their world is upside down,” Mr. Carranza said.

“If you can imagine, these were the main breadwinners for the families, and they’ve been tragically lost thousands of kilometres away. There’s significant emotional trauma for the wives and children and other relatives.”

The families of the migrant workers who died and the workers in hospital will have all expenses covered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, Greg Dennis, a spokesman for the Ontario minister of labour, said in an email.