British Columbia

B.C. bus crash survivor starts online petition to improve 'treacherous' Vancouver Island road

A survivor of the bus crash near Bamfield, B.C. which killed two University of Victoria students says she wants to see changes made to the logging road to prevent another tragedy from happening.

Sarah Hunter's petition has over 7,500 signatures

Dodging potholes is common along the road known as the Bamfield Main that leads to the remote B.C. town. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

A survivor of the bus crash near Bamfield, B.C. which killed two University of Victoria students says she wants to see changes made to the logging road to prevent another tragedy.

Student Sarah Hunter has started an online petition to try to get improvements made to the road. The petition has over 7,500 signatures so far.

Hunter said she started the petition because she was angry the lives of Emma Machado and John Geerdes were taken for no reason. 

"I wanted to give a voice to Emma and John who are no longer here to prevent this from happening ever again," Hunter told On The Coast in a phone interview. 

Both students died in the Sept. 13 crash when the bus rolled off an embankment on a gravel road on its way to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre on the west coast of Vancouver Island for a field trip.

Seventeen other people were taken to hospital. 

'We're all going to die'

Hunter said while on the bus, she joked with a friend about how treacherous the conditions were that night. The bus began to slide after it made way for another vehicle and stopped on the side of the rocky, gravel road.

Hunter said she got a feeling similar to the feeling of being in airplane turbulence as the bus began to topple. She said she felt helpless.

"We're all going to die," Hunter said when asked what went through her mind while the bus rolled down the hill. 

She said when the bus finally stopped, many people were crying and yelling out that they were injured. 

Other warnings

Robert Dennis, chief councillor for the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, said the road has been a safety issue for decades.

Dennis said he's been trying for years to get the provincial government to heed calls to improve safety along what he describes as a "dangerous" stretch of road.

A tow-truck crew removes a bus from an embankment next to a logging road near Bamfield, B.C., on Sept. 14, 2019. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

"I've been chief councillor for 21 years, and I have been knocking on every Liberal government, every NDP government, to get our road fixed," said Dennis.

In a report 11 years ago, B.C.'s forest safety ombudsman, Roger Harris, warned the provincial government about the dangers of the road between Port Alberni and Bamfield.

Harris outlined in the report that many communities in B.C., including Bamfield, are only accessible by old logging roads that aren't adequately maintained. 

Hunter said she hasn't heard of any plans by the university to change the destination of the popular field trip. 

To listen to the full interview with Sarah Hunter, click the audio link before:

With files from On The Coast, The Early Edition, Cathy Kearney & Rhianna Schmunk

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