Trees blocked sight lines at Bron­cos crash: re­view

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - RYAN MCKENNA

REGINA A con­sult­ing firm says sight lines are a safety con­cern at the ru­ral in­ter­sec­tion where the deadly Hum­boldt Bron­cos bus crash hap­pened.

A 70-page safety re­view done for the Saskatchewan govern­ment and re­leased Wednes­day said a stand of trees, mostly on pri­vate prop­erty, ob­structs the view of driv­ers ap­proach­ing from the south and east — the same di­rec­tions the bus and semi-trailer were com­ing from when they col­lided.

Ne­go­ti­at­ing with the landowner to re­move the trees is one of 13 rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded in the re­port. The prov­ince said paint­ing “Stop” and “Stop Ahead” on the road, as sug­gested in the re­view, was done this week and there are plans to add rum­ble strips next year.

Chris Joseph, a for­mer NHLer whose son, Jaxon, died in the crash, said all of the rec­om­men­da­tions are good.

“We def­i­nitely want to make the roads safer,” Joseph said. “I mean, that’s pretty much all we’ve got, right? We lost our son and we’re just hop­ing to avoid fu­ture ac­ci­dents like that.”

Six­teen peo­ple died and 13 others were in­jured in the col­li­sion at the in­ter­sec­tion north of Tis­dale on April 6.

The bus was trav­el­ling north on High­way 35 and the semi was west­bound on High­way 335. Both roads have speed lim­its of 100 km/ h. High­way 335 has a stop sign. High­way 35 does not.

The RCMP have charged the truck’s driver, Jaski­rat Sidhu of Cal­gary, with 16 counts of dan­ger­ous driv­ing caus­ing death and 13 counts of dan­ger­ous driv­ing caus­ing bod­ily in­jury. His next court ap­pear­ance is sched­uled for Tues­day. The re­view notes that be­cause Sidhu’s charges are still be­fore the court, po­lice would not dis­cuss causes of the crash.

The re­port’s au­thors found six col­li­sions at the in­ter­sec­tion be­tween 1990 and 2017, and an­other 14 on the two roads nearby. One of those col­li­sions was deadly.

In June 1997, a half-ton truck and a semi-trailer crashed, leav­ing six mem­bers of the same fam­ily dead.

Those ve­hi­cles where head­ing south and east — in the op­po­site di­rec­tion as the bus and truck in the Bron­cos crash. The re­view did not find an­other ac­ci­dent with ve­hi­cles trav­el­ling west and north.

“Although there have been two mul­ti­ple fa­tal­ity col­li­sions at the in­ter­sec­tion, the lo­ca­tion does not have a high over­all fre­quency of col­li­sions, in­clud­ing high-sever­ity col­li­sions,” the re­view con­cludes.

A coro­ner’s re­port on the 1997 crash, which was ob­tained through a free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest, rec­om­mended in­stalling an ad­di­tional warn­ing de­vice ap­proach­ing High­way 35 from the west, which could in­clude rum­ble strips. The govern­ment of the day de­clined, how­ever, not­ing there had only been one crash at that in­ter­sec­tion since 1988.

Joseph said rum­ble strips would slow down driv­ers and he thinks bet­ter sight lines would have al­lowed bus driver Glen Do­erk­sen more of an op­por­tu­nity to see the truck. Do­erk­sen was killed in the crash.

“There’s no ques­tion (re­mov­ing ) the trees would have helped,” Joseph said.

The govern­ment cut down some of the trees in Oc­to­ber, but most of them are on pri­vate prop­erty.

Fred An­tunes, deputy min­is­ter with the prov­ince’s Min­istry of High­ways and In­fra­struc­ture, said there will be fur­ther dis­cus­sions about the trees with the landowner.

But Ian Box­all, deputy reeve of the Ru­ral Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Con­naught, said he takes is­sue with ask­ing peo­ple to cut down trees on their pri­vate prop­erty.

“If you fol­low the rules of the road and stop at the stop sign, the trees aren’t an is­sue,” he said.

The re­view also sug­gested the me­mo­rial at the in­ter­sec­tion be moved to a safer lo­ca­tion be­cause of the high vol­ume of vis­i­tors.

Joseph said pre­lim­i­nary dis­cus­sions sug­gest the govern­ment is will­ing to cre­ate a space where peo­ple can safely pull off.

“We want a road­side me­mo­rial, we don’t want it to be a dis­trac­tion,” Joseph said.

In a year-end in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press, Pre­mier Scott Moe said Saskatchewan is look­ing at im­prov­ing safety of other in­ter­sec­tions across the prov­ince.

“The in­vest­ment that our high­ways have ex­pe­ri­enced over the last decade needs to con­tinue,” Moe said.

But no mat­ter what govern­ments do to re­duce risk, An­tunes said driv­ers are still re­spon­si­ble.

“It re­quires all driv­ers to pay at­ten­tion to what they’re do­ing, fol­low the rules of the road, and if driv­ers don’t do that, we’re still go­ing to have ac­ci­dents.”

JONATHAN HAY­WARD

A con­sult­ing firm has rec­om­mended re­mov­ing trees at the in­ter­sec­tion where the Hum­boldt Bron­cos bus crash oc­curred.

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