(CBC.ca) The New Brunswick government is launching a coroner's inquest into the crash that killed seven members of the Bathurst High School basketball team and one teacher after a school van collided with a
transport truck almost a year ago. Greg Forestell, the province's acting chief coroner, met with the parents of the boys involved in the heartrending highway crash on Thursday morning, where he delivered the long-awaited decision to study the events that contributed to the incident. The
small northern city of Bathurst was devastated on Jan. 12, 2008, when the van
carrying the Bathurst High School boys basketball team collided with a
transport truck in icy winter conditions just minutes from home. After
consulting with Crown prosecutors, the RCMP announced in November that
no charges will be pressed in connection with the crash.

"The inquest gives us the opportunity to pull all those facts
together in a comprehensive manner and look at the issues in their
entirety and have the jury make recommendations for prevention,"
Forestell said.

The inquest will be held in Bathurst and is anticipated to begin in April or May.

A coroner’s inquest brings together jury members who listen to days
of expert testimony and witnesses' accounts. At the end, they offer a
list of non-binding recommendations surrounding policy reforms that can
be undertaken by the government.

A coroner's inquest does not attempt to pinpoint blame for a death it investigates.

Families pleased by decision

http://www.cbc.ca/gfx/images/news/photos/2008/07/29/bathurstcrash-cp-4161440.jpgTwo mothers have been putting pressure on the provincial government in recent weeks to call an inquest into the van crash.

Isabelle Hains, whose son Daniel was killed in the crash, said she
is pleased by the coroner's decision. She and Ana Acevedo, whose son
Javier was also killed, publicly called for the inquest last week.

Hains said she met with Forestell earlier Thursday so he could
explain how the inquest will be organized. It will likely begin in
Bathurst sometime during the spring of 2009 and last about two weeks,
she said.

Hains said she would like to see a district-wide school weather
travel policy for school-related events. The road conditions the night
the van crashed were formed by freezing rain and snow.

She also wants schools to only use drivers qualified to handle larger, multi-passenger vehicles for such events.

"I hope that when this is all over and has become a part of our
province's history that the memory of our boys will live on in a van
angel's law that protects all children as they make that long bus ride
out of town to participate in school sports and other extracurricular
events," she said.

"I know our boys would want that … for all the children to be safe."

'Difficult time' for families

Hains said the approaching first anniversary of the accident is weighing heavily on the families of the victims.

"We're all having a difficult time right now," she said.

A report released by the RCMP earlier this year found the van
involved in the collision was in poor condition. Another report by
Transport Canada found the driver had been awake for 16 hours and was
driving in poor weather conditions.

Those reports have resulted in some changes to transportation
policies for extra-curricular school activities, including the banning
of 15-passenger vans and the mandatory use of winter tires.

(Story from http://www.cbc.ca/canada/new-brunswick/story/2008/12/18/nb-bathurst-coroner.html?ref=rss)

Subscribe to Email Newsletter
Share this article to...