Blatch­ford’s col­umn triv­i­al­ized Hum­boldt crash

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY + REGION - BOB HARRIMAN

Re: “Hum­boldt de­serves an­swers” col­umn by Christie Blatch­ford, page NP2, April 11

I am a for­mer RCMP mem­ber. My first post­ing was Hum­boldt, my wife grew up in Hum­boldt, we mar­ried in Hum­boldt and it is still con­sid­ered home.

I was a first re­spon­der at the 1986 Swift Cur­rent Bronco ac­ci­dent, and also had a Swift Cur­rent Bronco bil­let, Bob Wilkie, as part of our fam­ily, on the bus that ter­ri­ble day. Thir­tytwo years later I am proud to say I have a daugh­ter, an ER doc­tor who worked at RUH last Fri­day. So, my com­ments are pro­vided based on a long history of un­der­stand­ing is­sues both on a pro­fes­sional and very per­sonal level.

Af­ter 36 years in polic­ing and 104 fa­tal ac­ci­dents, I can say each fa­tal ac­ci­dent is hor­rific, per­sonal and al­ways com­pli­cated.

Ev­ery first re­spon­der has two ini­tial pri­or­i­ties — to save lives and ren­der the scene safe — but they must re­place their emo­tions with sin­gle-minded fo­cus and courage. When the in­jured are re­moved there are thou­sands of other pri­or­i­ties re­quired of the pro­fes­sion­als in­volved. I men­tion courage, as first re­spon­ders of­ten place their own lives at risk in hor­rific scenes and danger­ous cir­cum­stances.

Bob Wilkie, Dar­ren Kruger, Peter Sober­lak, Shel­don Kennedy, Pat No­gier, all of whom were part of 1986 Swift Cur­rent bus crash, at­tended RUH to meet fam­i­lies and sur­vivors. It was amaz­ing to see these lads pro­vide com­fort. I wit­nessed sur­vivors of an­other hockey bus crash com­fort and share their in­di­vid­ual jour­neys.

The health care sys­tem took a risk and al­lowed us ac­cess; their only ask was to re­spect the con­fi­den­tial per­sonal in­for­ma­tion and in­juries which this group com­pletely re­spected.

Po­lice officers rarely get to fol­low vic­tims and fam­i­lies’ dif­fi­cult jour­neys fol­low­ing tragic events as they are tasked for days and weeks, re­con­struct­ing the ac­ci­dent scene to de­ter­mine ex­actly what oc­curred and if pos­si­ble, why. This in­volves pre­cise mea­sure­ments, hun­dreds of ex­hibits, lab sub­mis­sions, ex­am­i­na­tions of me­chan­i­cal and elec­tronic ve­hi­cle de­vices and many in­ter­views of po­ten­tial and ac­tual wit­nesses.

It is chal­leng­ing and di­rectly pro­por­tional to the size, con­di­tions of crash site, and types of ve­hi­cles and in­volves agen­cies with co-ju­ris­dic­tion. All in­ves­ti­ga­tors and in­ves­ti­ga­tions are un­en­cum­bered by out­side in­flu­ences. There is no in­ter­nal RCMP pres­sure to com­plete this com­pli­cated task, how­ever there is ab­so­lute ex­pec­ta­tion that the in­ves­ti­ga­tions are de­tailed, com­plete, ac­cu­rate and meet all civil, crim­i­nal and gov­ern­men­tal ex­pec­ta­tions. I can tell you that in this case the scope of this ac­ci­dent places enor­mous chal­lenges on all in­ves­ti­gat­ing this hor­rific ac­ci­dent.

How do I know this is the case? Be­cause as a for­mer ac­ci­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tor, hockey bil­let and a per­son who has been at far too many fa­tal ac­ci­dents I know all too well the chal­lenges the RCMP have to ‘get it right’ for the fam­i­lies, vic­tims and sur­vivors.

The Swift Cur­rent crash sur­vivors trav­elled to Ni­pawin and took part in a crit­i­cal in­ci­dent de­brief with RCMP, EMS from Melfort, Ni­pawin and Tis­dale as well as Ni­pawin and Tis­dale vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments. This group from 1986 shared their jour­neys with the folks who were there Fri­day sav­ing lives with fo­cus and courage.

The peo­ple of the health care sys­tem care, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion took a risk by al­low­ing six of us who have ‘been there’ meet the fam­i­lies and sur­vivors. The RCMP also care and they will al­low their in­ves­ti­ga­tors the un­fet­tered time to ‘get it right.’

Be­fore you print an opin­ion triv­i­al­iz­ing this ter­ri­ble scene as sim­ple, one which as you say is “so flat you can watch your dog run away,” know that folks in Hum­boldt Saskatchewan and all of Canada ex­pect the RCMP to ‘get it right.’


Rocky Sal­is­bury of Ni­pawin sets up crosses at the in­ter­sec­tion of High­way 35 and High­way 335, north of Tis­dale, where a col­li­sion oc­curred in­volv­ing the Hum­boldt Bron­cos hockey team bus that re­sulted in the deaths of 16 peo­ple. He said he didn’t know any of the players per­son­ally, but he made the crosses out of re­spect and so that peo­ple vis­it­ing the site could vi­su­al­ize how many lives were lost.


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