A student from the University of Victoria who survived a bus crash on Friday night is asking the federal government to fix the road where the rollover occurred on Vancouver Island.
Sarah Hunter started a petition to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on change.org asking for something to be done to improve the 85-kilometre logging road between Port Alberni and Bamfield.
Hunter remembers the bus teetering and passengers screaming as the vehicle fell onto its side on the Carmanah Main Junction gravel road and slid 20 feet down the embankment just after 10 p.m. on Sept. 13. Of the 48 passengers, 17 were taken to hospital. Two 18-year-old first year biology students, Emma Machado and John Geerdes, were killed.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 3,250 people had signed Hunter’s petition. The road conditions have long been a concern for folks who use the route regularly and it’s frequently used to take students to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre for research trips.
The Huu-ay-aht First Nation have been pushing various levels of government to improve the road for years. In a statement released on Sept. 14, Chief Coun. Robert Dennis Sr. commended the first responders and to the City of Port Alberni for the quick action taken after the crash. He also noted that the incident highlights the need for safety improvements.
“Safety on this road is one of our primary concerns as a Nation,” said Dennis Sr. who was at the scene helping after the crash. “Too many lives have already been lost.”
Hunter noted that the bus driver was experienced, but that their skills were no match for the darkness, rain and poor road conditions. She believes the lack of action taken by the government is what led to the fatal incident.
“[This] dangerous road is used a primary route of transportation to bus large numbers of teenagers and young adults with all the known associated risk factors, and no one seems to care enough to do anything,” says Hunter.
She hopes the community will join forces to push the provincial and federal governments to fix the road to guarantee safety.
“It was only a matter of time before something like this happened, and I hope that everyone feels strongly enough to spark change so that it may never happen again.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said the issue is complex because the road is not owned by the province, and was designed and built for industrial use.
“Bamfield Main road is a private industrial road operated and maintained by private companies for active forestry operations,” a ministry representative said.
“Government has previously met with the Huu-ay-aht First Nation on several occasions to discuss their proposals for potential modifications to the road. Government will continue to discuss this with the Huu-ay-aht First Nation and other stakeholders.”