Sunday, March 24, 2013

BC Workplace Safety Investigation into Abbotsford 15 Passenger Van Tragedy

On March 7, 2007, a 15-passenger van carrying 16 farm workers plus the driver was travelling east on Highway 1 near Abbotsford, B.C. The vehicle collided with two transport trucks, rolled, and landed on its roof on the highway median. Three workers were killed and 14 others injured. 


Findings as to causes

  • A 15-passenger van carrying 17 workers veered onto the right shoulder of the highway. The driver tried to steer back into the lane but steered too far to the left and collided with another vehicle in the centre lane. This collision pushed the passenger van back towards the right lane. As the passenger van slowed down, it was hit from behind by a third vehicle. The impact caused the van to spin out of control, eventually rolling over and stopping upside down on the highway median.
  • If proper seat belts had been provided and if the workers had worn them, the number of fatalities and the severity of the workers' injuries might have been reduced.
Findings as to underlying factors
  • The following factors likely contributed to the loss of vehicle control:
    • Road conditions: Poor visibility and the wet road may have caused the driver of the passenger van to steer onto the shoulder of the highway.
    • Poor tire maintenance: Improperly inflated tires, with poor tread on the front tires, may have permitted the passenger van to hydroplane on the wet road. It is possible that hydroplaning contributed to loss of vehicle control.
    • Lack of driver training and knowledge: The driver of the passenger van lacked adequate knowledge and training to safely operate a 15-passenger commercial vehicle in adverse conditions.
    • Vehicle stability issues: The risk of rollover for a 15-passenger van increases when there are more than 10 occupants because the centre of gravity shifts towards the rear of the van.