The bus was towed away from the crash site on Saturday, Sept. 14. PHOTO COURTESY CTV NEWS VANCOUVER ISLAND

Safety concerns resurface after fatal bus crash on Vancouver Island

Huu-ay-aht First Nations wants a safe route between Bamfield and Port Alberni

The remote Vancouver Island road that was the site of a fatal bus crash last weekend has been a safety concern for decades, according to local leaders.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations chief councillor Robert Dennis Sr. was at the scene on Friday night after a bus carrying 48 people, many of them students from the University of Victoria, rolled down an embankment on its way to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

READ MORE: Two killed after bus crashes taking university students to Bamfield

Huu-ay-aht is an Indigenous community that primarily resides around the village of Anacla, near Bamfield. The main access is via Bamfield Road — an approximately 85-kilometre stretch of mostly gravel with no cell service. It’s heavily used by logging trucks, but also has several regular commuters and tourists.

Dennis and his wife were returning home to Bamfield when they were flagged down by another driver and told there’d been a crash a couple of kilometres ahead.

Chief councillor Robert Dennis Sr.

“When we got there, we saw lots of lights flashing,” said Dennis. It was the cell phones of dozens of students, who had already made it to the roadside and were helping others up the embankment with a rope. He and his wife went to help.

“One of the younger girls was crying, said she wanted to get home. You could tell they were feeling the effects of the crash. All in all, it was a scary thing to come up to.”

Emergency vehicles arrived more than an hour later. One person had to be extricated from the bus. Two others, identified on Monday as an 18-year-old woman from Manitoba and an 18-year-old man from the U.S., were found dead.

READ MORE: Logging truck crash near Bamfield shows need for new road

Dennis travels the road between Port Alberni and Bamfield around three to four times a week. It’s maintained based on logging operations, he said, but does not take commuters into account. It had been graded only a couple of days ago, but was already starting to develop large potholes from heavy rain earlier in the week, he said.

“I would say 90 per cent of the road is in decent-to-poor condition,” he said. “It’s not maintained with public safety in mind, in my view.”

He said he spoke to the bus driver, who was “very experienced” driving that road. The cause of the crash is still unknown.

Huu-ay-aht First Nations has been trying to work with all levels of governments for years to make the road safer. He said they’re in talks with the province, but this crash highlights the need for immediate action.

“I want to offer my condolences to the families that lost loved ones,” he said. “Who on earth wants to send their kids to school and have this happen?”

READ MORE: City of Port Alberni offers support after fatal bus crash

Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions said the city has reached out to the province as well for safety improvements.

“We all know that Huu-ay-aht has really been leading the charge for improvements to the Bamfield Road,” she said on Saturday.

“It will continue to be a push. There’s a lot of work to be done, and situations like last night really highlight that.”

Claire Trevena, the minister of transportation and infrastructure, said she has heard concerns raised about the road by the Huu-ay-aht First Nation as well as the local member of the legislature, Scott Fraser.

“Ministry officials have been looking into the issue to determine if safety improvements could be made,” Trevena said in an email statement.

“The situation is complex as this is a private, industrial road, operated and maintained by private companies for active forestry operations.”



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Win and a tie for Maple Ridge secondary

Ramblers beat Garibaldi, tied with Gleneagle

Police looking for man last seen in Maple Ridge

Barrie Holt was last seen Oct. 6

Aidan’s Cup supercar event coming to Pitt Meadows

Once-in-a-lifetime driving experience via Children’s Wish Foundation

Soccer association hires new ops manager

Shauna Williams is the new Operations Manager for West Coast Auto Group FC. (Contributed)

VIDEO: Langley woman’s security camera records its own theft

Langley family discovers early morning grab was recorded

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

BC Ferries filling up fast with post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Monday anticipated to be busiest day of the weekend

The one with the ‘Friends’ photoshoot: Kelowna group recreates TV show intro

A friend’s departure prompted them to create something that really says, “I’ll be there for you”

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

B.C. VIEWS: Wolf kill, not backcountry bans, saving caribou

B.C.’s largest herds turn the corner from extinction

Vancouver Giants wrap up prairie road swing with a 4-2 win over Regina

Milos Roman paced the Langley-based Giants with two goals, goaltender David Tendeck made 34 saves

Most Read