Saskatoon

Families of dead crash victims should get larger cut of Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe: committee

If a judge approves the recommendation, the survivors of the April 6 Humboldt Broncos bus crash would each receive $425,000 while families or dependents of those who died would get $475,000 each.

Judge still needs to rule on proposed split of funds

A five-person committee has weighed in on how the remaining balance from a $15-million GoFundMe campaign should be split among the people directly affected by the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (Humboldt Broncos/Twitter)

The committee tasked with recommending how the $15-million Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe should be divvied up said the families who lost a loved one in the bus crash should receive more than those who were in the crash and survived.

The five-person committee's report on how the money should be split was filed in Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench Thursday. The April 6 crash killed 16 people and injured 13. 

The proposed split would see survivors each receive $425,000, while the families or dependents of the crash's fatal victims would receive $475,000. These figures do not include a $50,000 interim payment each family received earlier this year.​ 

'Depths of their despair is unfathomable'

In its 19-page report, the committee wrote that the majority of the 29 claimants felt the money should be divided 29 equal ways.

But the committee felt that wasn't the right solution because "there is a huge difference in emotional circumstances between most of the families who lost a loved one and most of the families who did not."

"The first and most obvious difference is that 16 of the 29 passengers on the bus died, leaving their loved ones with profound grief, anguish and depression. The depths of their despair is unfathomable," the committee wrote.

3 claimants were 'aggressive'

The committee also singled out three of the 29 claimants for their "aggressive" behaviour during consultations and for not being open to options other than an equal cut. Those outliers go unnamed in the report. 

"Each of the three, speaking to the committee independently and at separate times, claimed to speak for all of the other families," the committee wrote.

"It was apparent from our discussions with the claimants that not all of the families of passengers who died in the crash support an equal distribution."

"We did not find their relatively aggressive approach to be helpful," the committee added.

'Not motivated by monetary concerns'

Two of the most seriously injured players, who also go unnamed, emerge from the report in a much different light. 

Through their parents, "they clearly expressed their view that all of the surviving Broncos players should be treated equally in the allocation," the committee wrote. "They were simply not motivated by monetary concerns."

After "much soul searching," the committee decided it would not "stand in the way" of those wishes. 

Next steps

The report's recommendations are not the final word on the matter. Justice Neil Gabrielson will make the final decision after hearing arguments from lawyers for the families and the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc., which has been shepherding the GoFundMe distribution through the court process.

Gabrielson has already decided that the division of money should not be exclusively tied to expenses incurred by the families or survivors.

The next court date is set for Nov. 28.

People from more than 80 countries pledged a total $15 million on GoFundMe for the families after the April 6 collision between the Broncos team bus and a semi-trailer.

GoFundMe deducted more than $500,000 from the final tally for payment processing. That, along with the interim payments, left approximately $13 million to be split up.

The five-person committee asked by the memorial fund corporation to recommend a split was made up of:

  • Dennis Ball, a retired Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench judge.
  • Mark Chipman, chairman of the company that owns the Winnipeg Jets hockey team.
  • Former Olympic hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser.
  • Dr. Peter Spafford of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine.
  • Kevin Cameron, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response.

'We just wanted to help'

Sylvie Kellington, the woman who started the GoFundMe page alongside another Humboldt resident with the aim of helping families cover expenses, said she hopes the money can be distributed as soon as possible.

"It's been frustrating for the donors that this is taking so long, but I trust it's all being done properly," Kellington said Thursday. "I'm happy this didn't all fall on my shoulders."

She said she had no idea the fund would grow to record levels.

"We just wanted to help, and I think we did," she said. "The whole world responded. It was just wonderful."

Insurance money

The GoFundMe money earmarked for families, if approved in court, will come in addition to various types of coverage from Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI).

SGI's no-fault program provides money for funeral expenses, grief counselling and payments to surviving spouses.

For example, Christina Haugan — the wife of head coach Darcy Haugan, who died in the crash — stands to receive payments equalling 45 per cent of her husband's salary, every year.

Haugan declined to comment about the committee's GoFundMe distribution plan.

Team members injured in the crash are eligible for up to $6.9 million in coverage for medical and rehabilitation expenses.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly listed the number of fatalities in the crash as 13 and the number of injuries as 16. In fact, 16 people died in the crash and 13 were injured.
    Nov 22, 2018 1:37 PM CT

With files from CBC's Guy Quenneville, Jason Warick and Bonnie Allen

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