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

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.
Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, back centre, and RCMP Supt. Rob Lasson, back right, listen as Lanette Siragusa, CEO of Shared Health, speaks about the Carberry bus crash during a news conference at RCMP headquarters, in Winnipeg, on Monday, June 19, 2023. 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. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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 had improved of one of the six people in critical condition.

Mounties said they have yet to speak to the bus driver as he is 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.”

The driver of the truck was earlier released from hospital.

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

The seniors were headed 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.

Of the 25 people on the bus, 19 were women. They all ranged in ages from 58 to 88.

Weather conditions were clear at the time.

The bus was headed south on Highway 5 across the Trans-Canada. Aerial photos show it would have had to first obey a stop sign before entering the westbound lanes, then stop at a concrete median and obey a yield sign before proceeding into the eastbound lanes.

Road safety engineer Raheem Dilgir said a narrow median can be an issue because some drivers may try to cross an intersection in one rather than two stages.

“That’s even a more challenging manoeuvre then to look for traffic in both directions of high-speed traffic, as well as to look and see if the median is occupied,” said Dilgir, past president of the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals.

“It’s inherently a difficult type of intersection to use, especially if you have a larger vehicle.”

He said fixes range from wider medians, lower speed limits, rumble strips, roundabouts and flashing signs all the way to expensive overpasses.

Transportation safety engineer Russell Brownlee said roundabouts are effective but costly and require more space. 

Less expensive solutions, he said, include having good sight lines, signs and road markings.

The Manitoba government said there have been 29 other reported crashes at the intersection in the past decade. A quarter were collisions with animals, while the rest involved vehicles. There were 12 injuries and one death.

Andre Lower, a senior transportation engineer with Trans-Plan, said those numbers "should've raised eyebrows" and prompted a review earlier.

Monitoring collisions at the intersection over time and noticing patterns should be used to determine infrastructure solutions, Lower added. 

"Better data drives better decisions," he said. 

The names of those killed Thursday 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 about the conditions 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?”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2023.

 — With files from Emily Blake in Yellowknife and Ritika Dubey in Edmonton

Kelly Geraldine Malone and Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Raheem Dilgir's last name.