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Canada Humboldt crash site review makes road safety recommendations

The wreckage of a fatal crash outside of Tisdale, Sask., on April 7, 2018.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

A government-ordered review of the intersection where the Humboldt Broncos' bus crashed earlier this year, killing 16 people connected to the junior hockey team, has recommended the province fix several safety issues, including clearing a stand of trees that would have obstructed the views of both bus driver and an approaching tractor-trailer.

But the report, prepared by an outside engineering firm, also concluded that the intersection on a rural stretch of highway near Tisdale, Sask., is not particularly dangerous, with only one other fatal collision recorded since 1990. There were five other non-fatal crashes in that time period but none in which two vehicles were travelling in the same directions as the Broncos' bus and transport truck.

Intersection where Humbolt Broncos’ bus crashed has claimed lives before

McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd. examined the intersection, which is located about 300 kilometres north of Regina. The Broncos' bus was travelling north on Highway 35 to a playoff game in Nipawin when it collided with a west-bound transport on Highway 335 carrying a load from a nearby peat moss plant. The bus had the right of way, while the truck would have faced a stop sign.

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The crash killed 16 people and injured 13 others. The truck driver, Jaskirat Sidhu, has been charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily injury. His next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.

Wednesday’s report, which did not make any findings about the cause of the crash, concluded that a stand of trees obstructs the sight lines between north- and west-bound traffic. It also says several other factors – including clutter from signs and overhead power lines, access roads to a nearby grain elevator and parking area as well as a railway crossing just past the intersection – increase the “mental workload” of drivers travelling along Highway 35, while drivers along Highway 335 may assume the intersection is uncontrolled or suffer tunnel vision, causing them to miss the stop sign.

The report includes 13 recommendations, including rumble strips, oversized stop signs and pavement markings on Highway 335, but the document highlights the trees as a top priority. About 400 square metres of trees on provincial land were removed, while the rest are on private property and will require negotiations with the landowner before they can be taken down.

Fred Antunes, the province’s deputy minister of highways, said his department plans to implement all 13 recommendations. He said the province let the property owner know that Wednesday’s report would include a proposal to remove the trees, but he said they’ve yet to have formal discussions.

“We like to build relationships with people so we want to have a relationship and talk to the landowner," Mr. Antunes said.

Chris Joseph, a former NHL player whose son Jaxon died in the crash, said all of the recommendations are good.

“We definitely want to make the roads safer,” Mr. Joseph said. “I mean, that’s pretty much all we’ve got, right? We lost our son and we’re just hoping to avoid future accidents like that.”

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THE CRASH SCENE

The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection

Nipawin

Tractor-trailer was heading west on 335

Bus was heading north on Hwy 35

Tisdale

SOURCE: CANADIAN PRESS

THE CRASH SCENE

The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection

Nipawin

35

Tractor-trailer was heading west on 335

335

Bus was heading north on Hwy 35

Tisdale

SOURCE: CANADIAN PRESS

THE CRASH SCENE

Nipawin

35

The force of the crash sent both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection

Tractor-trailer was heading west on 335

335

Bus was heading north on Hwy 35

Tisdale

SOURCE: CANADIAN PRESS

Other recommendations include relocating a roadside memorial, moving an access road for a nearby grain elevator and widening the highway shoulder.

The report identified six collisions at the same intersection between 1990 and 2017. The most severe incident happened in 1997, when a pickup truck carrying six people blew through the stop sign into the path of a tractor-trailer travelling south on Highway 35, killing everyone in the truck. In that collision, the pickup truck was travelling east, meaning the trees flagged in Wednesday’s report would not have blocked either driver’s view.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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