'I was devastated': Fatal school bus crash this week haunts mother of girl killed in 2008

When Donna Noble saw photos of a fatal school bus crash near Thorhild, Alberta this week, the scene looked nearly identical to the day her daughter died 10 years ago.

Maisie Watkinson, 15, and Jennifer Noble, 17, died nearly a decade apart in similar school bus crashes

Maisie Watkinson, 15, (left) died Wednesday in a school bus crash near Thorhild. Jennifer Noble, 17, (right) died in April 2008 in a similar crash near Rimbey. (Instagram/Supplied)

When Donna Noble saw photos of a fatal school bus crash near Thorhild, Alta. this week, the scene looked nearly identical to the day her daughter died 10 years ago.

"It brought back that day exactly to the tee," Noble said Thursday.

Donna's only child, Jennifer Noble, was in the back seat of a school bus the morning of April 9, 2008.

It was a foggy Wednesday morning, and the bus was stopped to pick up other students on a rural highway, when a gravel truck slammed into the back. Jenny was thrown from the bus and died instantly.

Near Thorhild on Wednesday morning, a tragedy under apparently similar circumstances claimed the life of another teen girl.

In heavy fog, a school bus was hit from behind by a gravel truck shortly after picking up students on a rural road .

Maisie Watkinson, 15, a student at Thorhild Central School, died at the scene.

On social media, friends and family described Maisie as a "naturally beautiful" girl who loved soccer and always looked out for others. "Heaven gained the most beautiful angel," her older sister wrote on Instagram.

"When I saw the pictures on the TV and the same corner of the bus, once again in the fog, once again with the gravel truck, I was devastated," said Noble.

Bus safety recommendations

Before Noble's daughter died, the province was considering a change that would make strobe lights mandatory for all school buses in Alberta.

The calls for change came after Kathelynn Occena, 9, died in 2007 when her school bus crashed into a parked gravel truck in Calgary.

After Jenny Noble's death, the province released a report with 10 recommendations to help improve school bus safety, from strobe lights and reflective tape to the recruiting and training of drivers.

Noble said she's happy the recommendations were released, but she's still concerned about how they're implemented in each school division across the province.

"I had the experience with Wolf Creek School Division here at one point shortly after Jenny died where … the strobes were there but because of the deflectors they didn't shine necessarily straight back," said Nobel.

"Wolf Creek ended up going in there and retrofitting a little lift on all of those strobes and lifting them up over top of those deflectors and it worked well."

Police say heavy fog at the time of the collision may be a contributing factor to crash that killed Maisie Watkinson, 15, on March 7. (CBC)

Redwater RCMP did not confirm whether the bus Maisie Watkinson was on had the flashing strobe light activated.

RCMP Cpl. Mark Joy said the analyst team will "cover off every angle" of the investigation to determine if speed, weather or other issues were a factor in the crash.

Noble said until those details come out, she understands what Watkinson's family is going though.

"You're not grasping that this has really happened," she said. "You're like, 'I put her on a school bus, right?' A school bus is supposed to be safe.

"I was hoping no other family would ever have to go through what we went through."

Grief counsellors have been brought in to Thorhild Central School to help students and teachers.

"Thorhild Central School is a close-knit family and this tragedy fills us all with an immeasurable sense of loss," said school principal Kim Carson in an statement on the Aspen View School Public Schools website.

"Together we will support and comfort everyone in our community."

About the Author

Tanara McLean is a producer and journalist at CBC Edmonton. She grew up in Red Deer and has spent her entire career in Alberta, working in print, radio and television.