REGINA – The coroner’s service in Saskatchewan has released its report on the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash, calling for tougher enforcement of trucking rules and mandatory seatbelts on highway buses.
The office made recommendations to six different government agencies following a review of last spring’s collision.
It also says the Ministry of Highways should look at its policy on signs at the intersection where the crash occurred and Saskatchewan Government Insurance should implement mandatory truck-driver training.
Evan Thomas of Saskatoon was among 16 people killed last April when a semi truck barrelled through a stop sign at a rural crossroads north of Tisdale and into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus. Thirteen others on the bus were injured.
“A tragedy this size, it can’t just be one thing that went wrong,” his father, Scott Thomas, said Monday.
Thomas said the coroner’s findings provide him with a sense of justification for some of the things that he and other families have been hoping to change.
What hit home for Thomas are the recommendations directed to Transport Canada for mandatory seatbelts and improving national safety codes for driver training and electronic logging.
“To me this has to be a nationally regulated profession and these guys should be treated as professionals just like airplane pilots are.”
Thomas said he believes Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the truck driver who is waiting to be sentenced for causing the crash, never should have been behind the wheel in the first place.
“He never should have been responsible for a vehicle of that size on that roadway, and somehow the system allowed for it.”
In December, the Saskatchewan government announced it will make training mandatory for semi-truck drivers starting in March. Drivers seeking a Class 1 commercial licence will have to undergo at least 121 1/2 hours of training.
Transport Canada announced in June that the department will require all newly built highway buses to have seatbelts by September 2020. Some charter bus companies say many new vehicles already have seatbelts, although there is no way to ensure passengers are wearing them.
Since the crash, Thomas and other Broncos families have been spreading the message to other sports teams to buckle up and some have taken up the challenge.
Another recommendation calls for the chief coroner to create a mass fatality plan and for the coroner’s office and health officials to review how they identify the dead and injured.
Days after the crash, the coroner’s office apologized for mixing up the body of a player in the morgue with an injured player in hospital.
Thomas said he would like to see the coroner’s report made binding. A coroner’s report into a crash at the same intersection that killed six people in 1997 recommended installing an additional warning device such as rumble strips. The government at the time declined.
“If the government would have acted after the ’97 coroner’s report, rumble strips would have been there. And I got to think that would have significantly changed the outcome of that day,” said Thomas.
The coroner’s report lists the deaths as accidental and says the chief coroner is not calling for an inquest.