Thursday, January 12, 2023

15 Anniversary of Boys in Red a Sombre Event: A reminder of the danger of 15 passenger vans

Memorial for Boys in Red 2023
15 years after the fatal 15-passenger van collision that took the lives of 7 young Bathurst High School basketball players, a memorial was held at the site of the collision to remember the lives lost and the changes that occurred in the wake of their deaths.

Isabelle Hains' son Daniel was just 17 years-old when he was killed along with his 6 teammates and the coach's wife at 12:08 am on January 12, 2008. The BHS Phantoms basketball team were returning to Bathurst after playing a game in Moncton, New Brunswick. 

It was late in the night, in a blinding snowstorm on icy roads with freezing rain and ice pellets when the driver lost control and slammed into a semi-tractor trailer just minutes outside of Bathurst at the junction of Highway 8 and 11.

In the wake of the senseless tragedy, a Coroners Inquest in May 2009 found that the van was unfit for travel and not properly maintained. Most importantly, the jury found that the New Brunswick Department of Education guidelines and regulations governing the use of  15 passenger vans for transporting students to extra-curricular activities were not followed. 

Recommendations from the Coroner's Jury led to changes in legislation which permanently banned the use of 15 passenger for student transportation in New Brunswick. Several provinces also enacted similar legislation. The mother's advocacy at the federal level also led to significant changes in student transportation, which resulted in the preferred use of Multi Function School Activity Buses (MFSAB) for schools.

The long story of the Boys in Red and the many challenges faced by the mothers seeking justice for their  children was detailed in the book "Driven" by Richard Foot.

Despite some positives changes in provincial and federal legislation, 15 passenger vans are still in wide use across Canada and the United States, especially by non-profit organizations, church groups and migrant workers. As recently as September 2022, 5 passengers were killed and 5 seriously injured in a horrific crash in Arkansas. See link

"A van servicing a school for disabled adults collided with a large truck in southeast Arkansas, killing five and injuring five, according to authorities. Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas State Police, said that the 15-passenger van belonged to C.B. King Memorial School, a nonprofit organization serving people with developmental delays or disabilities in a number of southeast Arkansas counties, as per its website. Police said that the victims fall between the ages of 19 and 73, and that both drivers are among the injured. It currently seems that the van’s driver “did not see the oncoming traffic” and failed to yield when crossing U.S. Highway 65, according to Sadler."

In November, 2022, 8 migrant workers were injured and the driver of the truck they collided with was killed in London, Ontario. See link

"The circumstances of Sunday morning’s crash seem eerily similar to the deadly collision that happened Feb. 6, 2012, in Hampstead, a rural area near Stratford.

A trucker headed home to London to celebrate his anniversary, and a 15-passenger van driven by a migrant worker, collided, killing the trucker and 10 migrant workers from South America. The van driver had failed to stop at a stop sign."