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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Castlegar march ensures missing, murdered aboriginal women not forgotten

About 60 people took part in the Valentine’s day memorial

PLACE NAMES: West Kootenay(s)

To some locals, “West Kootenays” (as opposed to West Kootenay) is like nails on a chalkboard

Midway mill shutdown expected to last 8 to 10 weeks

Vaagen Fibre Canada cites low inventory, road restrictions as reason for shut down

First presumptive case of coronavirus identified in the Interior Health region

The woman, in her 30s, travelled from Shanghai and lives in the interior

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Murder of sex worker exposes Canada’s hypocrisy on prostitution: advocate

A 2014 law made purchasing sex or benefiting from the selling of sex illegal

Wet’suwet’en return to northern B.C. forest road pipeline workers move through: First Nation

Opponents of a pipeline who support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have reoccupied camps at centre of arrests

Over a dozen birds found mysteriously dead on rural B.C road

Ministry of Agriculture notified of the strange occurrence on No. 4 Road in Abbotsford

B.C. men arrested after theft of heavy equipment leads to highway blockade

One man surrendered to police while the other was taken into custody the next morning, RCMP say

PHOTOS: Trans Mountain hosts mock oil spill response practice in Kamloops

Practice comes after an excavator accidentally struck the pipeline near Jacko Lake in mid-February

Federal Indigenous services minister meets First Nation at rail blockade

Blockade on Tyendinaga Mohawk territory near Belleville, Ont., is in its 10th day

Canada’s flag was flown for first time 55 years ago today

The flag is used to celebrate wins in sports, honour Canada Day, and flown at half-mast after tragedy

Most Read