Legacies of Broncos bus crash include truck safety, seatbelts and organ donation
By The Canadian Press
HUMBOLDT, Sask. – Sixteen people were killed and 13 were injured a year ago when a semi-truck and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided in rural Saskatchewan. An inexperienced truck driver who blew a stop sign, causing the crash, was recently sentenced to eight years in prison.
Here’s a look at several legacies that came out of the tragedy:
In the days after the crash, the Logan Boulet Effect was born. The family of Boulet, a 21-year old defenceman from Lethbridge, Alta., donated his organs because he had made his intentions clear.
Six people across Canada benefited and soon others followed his lead. Nearly 100,000 Canadians signed up to become organ donors after learning Boulet had signed his.
Canadian Blood Services said there were 99,742 registrations in April 2018 _ a number that only includes provinces with online registration: British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island. Other provinces reported receiving many phone calls from people wanting to register.
The rest of the 2018 statistics have not yet been compiled.
An event called Green Shirt Day – similar to Pink Shirt Day for anti-bullying and Orange Shirt Day for reconciliation – will be held Sunday, April 7, the anniversary of Boulet’s death, to promote organ donation registration.
Toby Boulet, Logan’s father, said the movement is bigger than his son. “There are many, many people who are passing because there’s not enough organs to go around or they don’t match,” he said at a recent event in Lethbridge. “That’s not what needs to happen. It has to be better than that.”
Crash survivor Tyler Smith of Leduc, Alta., said organ donation awareness is an amazing legacy for his former teammate.
“I knew him on a really personal level and he was a really selfless and amazing human being,” Smith said. “To see that continue is absolutely awesome to me.”
Seatbelts on buses
A movement dubbed Buckle Up for the Broncos started in September after one player’s mother wrote an opinion piece that ran in newspapers across the country.
Tricia Wack of St. Albert, Alta., whose son Stephen died, addressed seatbelt use on buses, and a Saskatchewan coroner’s report on the crash called for mandatory seatbelts on highway buses.
Hockey Canada, the national governing body for the sport, said it hasn’t made any changes since the crash but continues to discuss the issue internally.
“The coroner’s report obviously has come out now and there have been certain recommendations,” said Todd Jackson, director of insurance and risk management. “We’re certainly going to look at all of the different avenues as we move forward here. “What we are trying to do now is say, ‘OK, what do we need to put out messaging wise with respect to overall travel?”’
Some leagues, including the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, have already made seatbelt use a priority. Several teams have also made it a habit and often tweet under the #buckleupforthebroncos hashtag.
Former National Hockey League player Chris Joseph, also of St. Albert, lost his son, Jaxon, and has become an advocate for seatbelt use. “That’s a cultural shift,” he said in a recent interview.
Joseph recalled playing junior hockey and travelling on buses. “We thought it was a party,” he said. “I get it – it’s a special time for the team. I know exactly what the Broncos were doing when the accident happened, because I’ve been there. I’ve ridden the buses in junior. I’ve ridden buses in the minors.
“They were chatting. They were listening to music. Some were having quiet time. Some were getting dressed.”
He said it wouldn’t be difficult to change the culture by leaving five minutes earlier and stopping to let players change into their suits. “When you’re driving, sit down, and keep the seatbelt on,” said Joseph. “We need to have seatbelts on all moving vehicles.”
The federal government announced in June that all newly built highway buses will be required to have seatbelts by September 2020.
The Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba governments have all introduced mandatory training for semi-truck drivers after the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
Before the crash, Ontario was the only province that had mandatory truck driver training. Drivers seeking a Class 1 commercial licence in Saskatchewan are now required to undergo at least 121 1/2 hours of training. There’s also a 12-month safety monitoring program for drivers in effect.
In Alberta, similar requirements have come in and all new commercial carriers must prove they comply with transportation safety regulations before they start operating.
Alberta and Saskatchewan’s mandatory training went into effect last month, although Alberta extended the deadline by a year for farm workers.
Starting Sept. 1, commercial truck drivers in Manitoba will also be required to complete 121 1/2 hours of training.
Following a meeting with his provincial counterparts earlier this year, federal transport Minister Marc Garneau said they agreed to develop a training standard for new truck drivers by next January.
A petition asking the federal government to regulate the training of semi-trailer truck drivers has gained steam in recent months.
Carol Brons of Lake Lenore, Sask., who lost her daughter, Dayna, in the bus crash, said family members added their voices to the petition.
“It’s been hard to put ourselves out there,” she said. “Yet we feel the need for it is greater than our discomfort.”
Brons said many changes suggested in the petition were raised during the trial of the truck driver who caused the crash. “The biggest thing that came out of this is the lack of training that this truck driver had.”
The petition, which has nearly 5,000 names, can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/RoadSafetyPetition until mid-May.
There are plans for a permanent roadside memorial at the crash site north of Tisdale, Sask.
Jamie Brockman, president of the Broncos, said a committee is being finalized and will resume planning after Saturday’s one-year anniversary ceremony in Humboldt.
“It’s slow moving right now, from what I understand. It’s taken a bit of a backseat to the planning of the anniversary,” he said.
A consulting firm that did a safety review of the rural intersection suggested the current memorial – some handmade crosses and a large collection of mementoes left by people – be moved to a safer location because of the high number of visitors.
The committee will be made up of family members, team board representatives and people in the community.