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Manitoba to review deadly intersection, bring in experts if needed: premier

Mounties have yet to speak to bus driver, who is still receiving care in hospital
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson speaks to media at the convention centre in Winnipeg, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Stefanson will speak with reporters today about last week’s bus crash that killed 15 people and left 10 others seriously injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson says the province will bring in experts if necessary as part of a review to ensure safety at an intersection where 15 seniors were killed in a crash.

Stefanson says the government will make the appropriate checks, but for now is letting the police investigation unfold.

“We don’t want to rush through this,” Stefanson told a news conference in Winnipeg on Monday.

“There are still investigations going on right now. We’ll respect that process. But you know, an internal review is always taken.

“Because of the severity (of the crash), I think it’s important that we are willing to go beyond that, bring in experts where needed to ensure safety of people travelling on our roadways is the most important issue.”

RCMP continued to investigate Thursday’s crash on the Trans-Canada Highway between a semi-trailer truck and a minibus taking seniors on a day trip to a casino at Carberry, 170 kilometres west of Winnipeg.

Ten remained in hospital, but the condition has improved of one of the six people in critical care.

Mounties said they have yet to speak to the bus driver as he is still receiving care in hospital.

“We will be speaking to him when the time is right,” said RCMP Supt. Rob Lasson.

Police have said dashcam footage shows the bus was crossing the Trans-Canada Highway when it went into the path of the truck. But mechanical inspections and other checks are needed before investigators can determine exactly what happened.

Lasson said the mechanical inspections would take weeks and the investigation was moving slower than usual, given that many of the witnesses were still in hospital.

“All the witnesses were in the bus, and a lot of them are in trauma right now,” Lasson said.

“So we have to rely on forensic investigations, mechanical analysis of the vehicle and things like that. And that’s why it’s taking so long.”

Lasson said the autopsies began Monday. The medical examiner has said identification will take time and may require using dental records or fingerprints as many of the victims received severe facial trauma.

Weather conditions were clear at the time of the crash. There was also a stop sign at the intersection with a yield sign in the median between the opposite lanes.

The driver of the truck was earlier released from hospital. Of the 25 people on the bus, 19 were women. They all ranged in ages from 58 to 88.

The seniors were on a trip to the Sand Hills Casino near Carberry. The outing was organized by the Dauphin Active Living Centre, a seniors activity centre 190 kilometres to the north in Dauphin.

Dauphin city council was expected to meet later Monday to determine if and how any type of vigil or community gathering for the victims might take place.

Mayor David Bosiak said support workers and grief support dogs have been visiting the city’s seniors villages, where there are “pockets of deep sorrow.”

But, he added, the older age of many of those affected means there’s a certain a stoicism or need to experience the trauma privately.

“There is a sombre mood in the community generally, just a quietness,” Bosiak said.

Randy Daley, a city councillor involved in providing supports, said people may feel OK this week, but the grief could linger and grow with time.

Funerals should bring in family and busyness, he said, but it will get quiet in the weeks to come and that may be when it gets more difficult.

“Everybody has a different way of dealing with it,” Daley said.

The names of those who died have not been officially announced.

Helen Kufley, 88, was among those on the bus who died, her son said in a message on the weekend.

Nettie Nakonechny also died and leaves behind eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, her granddaughter Teah Alexander said in a statement to Global News.

At the Dauphin Active Living Centre, Sandra Kaleta said the usual morning activities were quiet.

“(It’s) the empty chairs,” Kaleta said. “It’s just like this empty void.”

While victims’ families have been notified, seniors in the community aren’t sure the condition of their friends, Kaleta said.

“For most people, I think, that’s what they are waiting for,” she said. “Who was on the bus? Who is still fighting in the hospital?”

READ ALSO: ‘Deal with together’: Manitoba community prays for victims of bus crash