At approximately 8:30 a.m. on December 2, 2019, a school bus heading to H.A. Kostash School was involved in a collision with a picker truck at the intersection of Highway 28 and Range Road 180, approximately five kilometres west of the town of Smoky Lake (115 kilometres northeast of Edmonton).
An investigation into the accident by the RCMP revealed that the school bus, which was heading north on Range Road 180, stopped at a stop sign as it approached Highway 28 and then proceeded into the intersection before being hit by the picker truck, that was heading west on Highway 28. Road and weather conditions were clear at the time of the crash. No traffic or criminal charges are currently pending in relation to the accident.
When firefighters arrived at the scene, bystanders had already begun administering first aid to the victims of the accident.
According to Scott Franchuk, the regional fire chief for Smoky Lake County:
We ended up using the … jaws of life as well as a couple of saws to cut some of the seats and the roof away. Due to their injuries, we had to take them out on a spine board.
The school bus was transporting students to H.A. Kotash School in Smoky Lake, Alberta. At the time of the accident, there were 14 students, ranging in age between six and sixteen, and one driver on the bus.
INJURIES SUSTAINED IN THE ACCIDENT
Five of the fourteen students on the bus were taken to hospital in Edmonton in critical condition. Three of them had to be flown by STARS air ambulance.
Another student and the bus driver sustained serious injuries and were transported by ground ambulance to Edmonton for further assessment. One child went to Stollery Children’s Hospital in stable condition.
Brothers Jedd and Jacob Serben were both on the bus heading to school on the morning of the collision. Jedd (12 years old) suffered serious injuries, including a broken femur, collapsed lung, cracked pelvis, fractured vertebra, internal organ lacerations, and required blood transfusions. He underwent an operation on his broken leg while at Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton and is doing quite well.
Jacob (7 years old) suffered bruises and a minor concussion and was released from hospital not long after the collision.
Jedd and Jacob’s father, Jered Serben (“Serben”), is appealing for changes to his kids’ bus route. He is concerned about the bus crossing major highways and is hoping that this can be minimized for students who are picked up from rural properties across Alberta. Serben stated:
I think that is an important note out of this collision, is that highways are dangerous and especially crossing highways is dangerous. We’re going to learn from this and try to make it safer for everybody.
According to police, the driver of the picker truck was transported to hospital with minor injuries. The passenger in the picker truck did not suffer any injuries.
AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION IS LAUNCHED
The two individuals in the picker truck at the time of the collision were employees of Sign Solutions, a Bonnyville, Alberta company. The owners of Sign Solutions has publicized that they will be initiating their own internal investigation into the cause of the crash.
The passenger of the picker truck was the only individual involved in the crash that was treated by EMS at the scene and released.
According to a spokesperson for Sign Solutions, the picker truck was traveling westbound on Highway 28 to Nisku when it collided with the school bus.
WILL SEATBELTS ON SCHOOL BUSES BE IN OUR FUTURE?
Donna Noble (“Noble”), the Alberta mother of a girl who was killed in the spring of 2008 in a school bus crash, is appealing to the public regarding her desire for seatbelts to be installed on school buses. Noble’s daughter was 17 years old when she was ejected from her school bus and killed instantly when the bus was hit by a gravel truck during thick fog conditions near Rimbey in central Alberta.
Here, I understand that nobody was thrown from the bus, thankfully. But if they had seatbelts, would their injuries have been not as bad? Because you can’t tell me they didn’t fly around in the bus.
Alberta Transportation Minister, Ric McIver (“McIver”), has advised that school bus safety is under review. He has been in consultations with the federal transportation minister and others from jurisdictions across Canada.
McIver voiced his concerns regarding installing seatbelts on school buses:
To retrofit seatbelts on a school bus, the research says it will make the school bus less safe instead of more. Because the bus isn’t made for a seatbelt.
In response, Noble suggests that seatbelts only be installed on new buses.
In the U.S., several states have recently passed legislation requiring lap and shoulder seatbelts to be installed on school buses. The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent United Stated federal government agency, has also advocated for new school buses to be fitted with seat belts.
Transport Canada is currently reviewing school bus safety and has announced that the results will be presented in 2020. We have previously blogged about the topic of seatbelts on school buses and will continue to provide updates regarding this topic in this blog.
In the meantime, if you or a loved one have been injured in a bus accident, you likely have many questions. Please contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers to help answer all of your questions and determine whether you have a claim. We offer free consultations for new clients. Contact our office online or at 403-571-0555 to make an appointment. We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.