Bathurst van tragedy results in permanent changes to student transportation

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An accident that killed seven teenagers and one woman in Bathurst 10 years ago has sparked permanent changes to the way students and staff are transported to school events.

Five of the boys who died — Javier Acevedo, Nathan Cleland, Justin Cormier, Codey Branch, and Daniel Hains — were 17 years old. The other two students were Nick Quinn, 16, and Nikki Kelly, 15.

Kelly Lamrock was New Brunswick’s education minister at the time, and remembers the call for immediate action.

“It was January and children were travelling for other activities and we wanted them to be safe, so I do recall there was immediately a temporary ban put in place on the particular type of van used,” Lamrock says.

Lamrock says there had been issues raised in other jurisdictions, but their goal at the time was to eliminate immediate possible risk.

The tragedy sparked a discussion about student transportation across Canada.

“Even at that time those types of vehicles were not permitted for passenger, student transportation in Nova Scotia and that remains the same,” says Lloyd Hines, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

An inquiry a year following the collision upheld the ban on having a 15-passenger van operated by a school.

“There was also, I remember, some temporary arrangements in place. For example, allowing coaches to know we would cover hotels,” says Lamrock.

A request was also made to only have a trained school bus driver driving children to extra-curricular actives. It was not accepted by the provincial government.

“There has been, I think, a decentralization of travel. Administrators are, I think, are profoundly uncomfortable saying, ‘Okay, we’ll arrange all this and we’ll make the call,'” Lamrock says.

“I suspect that is probably going to be the situation for some time.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Nick Moore.

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