$50K interim payments approved to survivors and families of Humboldt Broncos bus crash victims

An interim payment of $50,000 will be paid out to each of the survivors and families of the 29 people affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus collision, or about $1.45 million in total, has been approved by a Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench judge.

More than $15M was raised through GoFundMe in the aftermath of the April 6 collision

The Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc. got approval from the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench to make an interim payment of $50,000 each to the 13 survivors and the families of the 16 people who died after the April 6 team bus crash. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

An interim payment of $50,000 will be paid out to each of the survivors and families of the 29 people affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus collision.

A Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench judge agreed Wednesday that $1.45 million could be spent on the payments.

More than $15 million was raised through GoFundMe in the aftermath of the April 6 collision involving the team's bus and a transport truck, which left 16 dead and 13 injured. The Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc. was created to oversee the distribution of funds to victims.

Lawyers representing the fund and families asked for clarification about Saskatchewan's law around crowdfunding and the distribution of the remaining funds.

The main point of contention for two lawyers — Tim Hodgson and Kevin Mellor — is that they don't want the money unevenly distributed because one person could hypothetically produce receipts for expenses incurred while another may not be able to do so. 

Hodgson represents the family of Evan Thomas and Mellor represents the family of Adam Herold; both players died in the collision. The lawyers also said they want direct contact to be able to make direct submissions to a proposed advisory committee. 

Herold helped out on his parents farm, which means his parents may have to hire a helping hand to keep operations running without too much trouble. 

"Also, keeping in mind that some of these people involved were the primary breadwinner for their family," said Darrin Duell, president of the memorial fund.

"So, obviously that's a factor we need to consider and that will be up to the advisory committee to keep in mind." 

For Scott Thomas, whose son Evan died in the bus crash, the court process has been an opportunity for the families to voice their concerns and opinions, something he said isn't necessarily available when dealing with insurance companies. (CBC)

For Scott Thomas, father of Evan, the court process has been an opportunity for the families to voice their concerns and opinions, something which he said isn't necessarily available when dealing with insurance companies. 

"So many of the things that are already in place don't allow for lateral discussion and opinions for people that were hit hardest by this the most," Thomas said.

"For this process to allow us that opportunity to tell our stories, if you will, I think that's pretty important to some of us."

The crowdfunding campaign, which became the largest online fundraising campaign in Canadian history, is subject to a Saskatchewan law enacted in 2015 that requires court approval before a payout can be made. 

An independent five-person advisory committee will decide how the rest of the money should be divided:

Those on the committee include:

  • Hayley Wickenheiser, retired Olympic women's national team gold medallist.
  • Mark Chipman, chairman of the company that owns the NHL's Winnipeg Jets.
  • Dennis Ball, a recently retired Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench judge.
  • Dr. Peter Spafford, who's in charge of head and neck surgery at the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine.
  • Kevin Cameron, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response.

Justice Neil Gabrielson said in court today that while each family would get the same interim payment, it does not necessarily mean each family will receive an equal payment when the rest of the money is paid out. 

The committee will draft a report by October which will make recommendations before the report goes before the court again for final approval. A target date for final approval has been set for Nov. 15.

Access to funds

Some families need the money to cover the cost of funerals, travel and — in some cases — the loss of income or jobs since the life-altering April crash, according to an affidavit filed in court. 

"They urgently require access to funds in order to meet the financial obligations imposed upon them by the accident, in order to pay bills, in order to replace lost employment income and to be able to continue to care for their families," Duell,wrote in an affidavit filed with the Court of Queen's Bench. 

At least one family says the millions raised should be split evenly among the survivors and the families of those who were killed.

"I just say divide it, but that's just me," Tom Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralyzed from the chest down, told CBC News earlier this summer. "That's my opinion."

The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game in Nipawin when the crash occurred.

In July, semi driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, of Calgary, was charged with 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death and 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

He's due back in court next week. 

With files from Charles Hamilton, Guy Quenneville and The Canadian Press