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The Globe and Mail

Ontario agency to cover travel costs for Peruvian crash victims' families

Julia Hernandez and David Blancas, mother and son of victim David Blancas at Julia's home in Comas, Lima, Peru.

PILAR OLIVARES/pilar olivares The Globe and Mail

A government agency says it will fly Peruvians to Canada to claim the bodies of the 10 migrant workers killed in a horrific collision earlier this week.

The Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) will also spring for plane tickets for those closest to the three survivors of Monday's crash in Hampstead, Ont.

The board says it will cover the travel and accomodation costs of one relative per victim.

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"The WSIB will cover the travel costs for a spouse or closest family member who wishes to come from Peru to Ontario, either to support one of the seriously injured workers or escort the remains of their deceased relative home," spokeswoman Maura Murphy told The Globe Friday in an email.

Pressed as to whether the board might also fly over the young children of the survivors, she said that "we will consider the circumstances of each case."

The announcement may provide a modicum of comfort to the families of the migrant workers. These relatives have been in limbo since Monday, when a truck travelling on rural roads slammed into a 15-seat van carrying migrant workers away from their job at a chicken farm.

Ontario Provincial Police say the cause of the crash was "driver error" on the part of a Peruvian driver who failed to properly yield to a stop sign at a country crossroads.

That driver, David Blancas Hernandez, was among the migrant workers killed when a coming truck T-boned the van of migrant workers.

That vehicle's driver, Chris Fulton of London, Ont., was also slain by the impact. While his funeral is to be held on Saturday, the Peruvian families are awaiting the repatriation of the bodies of their loved ones.

The accident has shed light on Canada's migrant workers, who toil in obscurity in the nation's farmlands.

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Many of the victims of the crash were blood relatives from a poor neighbourhood of Lima, new arrivals to Canada who had hoped to feed their families with money from their new job. They worked for a Kitchener-Waterloo company controlled by a Peruvian-Canadian family.

Several had just completed their first day on the job when calamity struck. Because the survivors are considered to have been in the course of their employment when the accident occurred, the WSIB says it will be paying for their hospital tabs and lost wages.

In Canada, lawsuits could eventually be filed. In Peru, the widows are left to wonder how they will feed their families now that their breadwinners are dead.

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National security reporter

Focusing on Canadian matters during the past decade, Colin Freeze has reported extensively on the interplay between government, police, spy services, and the judiciary. Colin has twice been to Afghanistan to be embedded with the Canadian military. More

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