Bathurst inquest probes maintenance of van

The coroner's inquest into the fatal Bathurst, N.B., van crash that killed seven basketball players and the coach's wife in January 2008 is hearing Friday from a mechanic who inspected the 15-passenger van.

The coroner's inquest into the fatal Bathurst, N.B., van crash that killed seven basketball players and the coach's wife in January 2008 is hearing Friday from a mechanic who inspected the 15-passenger van.

Raymond Hache, the mechanic who performed the inspection on the van, told the inquest that he performs so many of these inspections that he doesn't remember the vehicle.

According to records from the garage, Hache inspected the white Ford E350 twice, two months before the crash.

The van failed the inspection on Oct. 29, 2007, because there were problems with a wiper, one of the passenger doors and the ball joints were loose. The van was back in the shop a few days later, and according to inspection documents the problems were fixed and it passed.

The inquest heard that wasn't the last time the vehicle was in the shop.

The 15-passenger van was back two weeks later with wiper problems and a broken heater fan — the last time it was serviced before the Jan. 12 accident.

The five-person coroner's jury also found out that the mechanic inspected the van as a passenger vehicle.

In earlier testimony, Greg Sypher, who prepared the collision investigation report for Transport Canada, said legally the 15-passenger van was a commercial vehicle.

Sypher explained that commercial vehicles undergo different inspections than passenger vehicles, with service appointments required every six months rather than once a year.

Tires, roads factored in crash

It is the second day that the jury has heard evidence about the shape of the van and other factors that led to the deadly crash.

The jury also heard on Friday from Curtis Bennett, the mechanic who inspected the van after the crash. He said the front-end alignment was off, and the tires were worn, scalloped and improperly inflated.

He said it would not have passed a safety test owing to the state of the brakes, tires and the van's rusted body.

On Thursday, an RCMP accident reconstruction specialist told the jury that underinflated and partly worn tires contributed to the crash.

Cpl. Annie Nielson also said in her testimony that another crash had happened in almost the same spot in December 2008.

Neilson said there was a five- to six-centimetre drop between the road and the gravel shoulder in the area of the collision, likely caused by erosion.

After the second crash, Neilson told reporters, the RCMP wrote to the Department of Transportation to see if something could be done about the abrupt transition between the highway and shoulder.

Neilson said she's concerned that the drop from road to shoulder still exists, and that is why she mentioned the second crash in her testimony.

Parents of some of the teens killed in the crash were in the courtroom on Friday. Some said they had steered clear of the coroner's inquest earlier in the week because they didn't want to hear more details of the fatal crash.

The inquest will continue on Monday and is expected to last the week.

The five-person jury will be able to make non-binding recommendations on how to avoid future accidents.