Canadian officials are investigating a tragic 15-passenger van crash that killed eight out of 12 people in the vehicle — seven members of a high school basketball team and their teacher. According to a news article in Canada’s CBC News, the Ford Club wagon fishtailed and collided with a big rig Saturday when the Bathurst High School team was returning home from a game.
Another CBC News article also points out that the Ford van, which was traveling on a snowed-on highway, was not fitted with snow tires, but regular or all-season tires. Transport Canada, a national regulatory agency, is not only investigating the accident, but also reviewing the idea of creating a new classification for 15-passenger vans, that will include tougher safety standards, CBC reported.
A public funeral is being planned for the seven students. According to a Sports Illustrated article, all of the deceased students were between 15 and 18 years of age. Most were ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead on the scene. Four people, who were injured, including the driver who was the team’s coach, are expected to recover, the article stated.
It is indeed tragic that these 15-passenger vans, which have long been deemed dangerous are still being used to transport small groups. These vans are nothing but “death traps on wheels.” Our lead trial attorney, Brian Chase, rightly points out in a TV interview this morning with CBC that these vehicles are extremely dangerous because they use stadium-style seating where passengers in the back are sitting slightly higher than the people in front.
This causes the center of gravity on the vehicle to shift, causing these vans to be very unsteady and rollover if the driver tries to take evasive action, Brian explained. That’s exactly what happened in this case. According to news reports, the van went completely out of control after hitting the shoulder of the road.
Moreover, numbers speak for themselves. The NHTSA reports that more than 1,100 people in the United States were killed in single vehicle rollovers in these vans between 1992 and 2002. In fact, 15-passenger vans are three times more likely to roll over than any other vehicle. Here in the United States, it is illegal in most states for school districts to use these vans to transport children, but church groups, community organizations, many colleges and university, even daycare centers use these dangerous vehicles for transportation.
How many people have to die before both the U.S. and Canadian governments outlaw these vehicles and take them off the road? The families of the students, now mourning the deaths of these young people whose lives have been tragically cut short, will want a lot of questions answered. Why did the school allow the students to be transported in a vehicle other than a school bus? Why were they traveling in unsafe conditions – when snow had even obscured the guard rails and lanes on the freeway? Why wasn’t the van fitted with snow tires? Were there any mechanical defects in the vehicle?
The families will be well-served to get an experienced and resourceful personal injury law firm specializing in 15-passenger van accidents early on. They need someone on their side who will look out for their interests and fight hard to protect their legal rights. In this case, there is no doubt that the victims’ attorneys should conduct an independent and thorough investigation themselves. The Ford van – the key piece of evidence – must be preserved with care.
Our hearts go out to these families who are left to mourn for these young people with all these unanswered questions and unresolved issues hanging over their heads. We pray for the families of the deceased and hope they find those answers and the peace and closure they deserve. Above all, we hope this horrible accident sparks a change in the law making these defective vehicles illegal for any group transportation. For more information on 15-passenger van accidents, please visit our Web site.