Blatchford’s column trivialized Humboldt crash
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.