$2.25M for players, coach in 2005 bus crash

Three members of an all-girls hockey team in Windsor, Ont., have been awarded $2.25 million in damages after a fatal bus crash in New York state in 2005.

Damages awarded to 2 players, 1 assistant coach of Windsor Wildcats

Three members of an all-girls hockey team in Windsor, Ont., have been awarded $2.25 million in damages after a fatal bus crash in New York state in 2005.

A jury in Rochester, N.Y., deliberated for four hours before awarding the damages on Monday.

The lawsuit stemmed from a January 2005 collision near Geneseo, N.Y. The jury awarded former player Carly Labadie $1 million. Her one-time teammate Tory Gault received $500,000. Both women are now in their 20s.

An assistant coach, Jason Mailloux, 35, was awarded $750,000.

The jury heard how all three had orthopedic injuries and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the crash.

Driver on job less than a month

In January 2005, the under-21 Windsor Wildcats girls hockey team had booked a charter bus trip with Coach Canada to take them from Windsor to Rochester to play in a hockey tournament. The girls had planned to go skiing after the game.

Coach Canada assigned the trip to one of its newest drivers, Ryan Comfort. The 24-year-old was inexperienced and had only started working for the company the month before.

Comfort drove through the night into Jan. 29, 2005, and then watched the Wildcats hockey game from the stands.

At 4:00 p.m., more than 12 hours after he began the trip from Windsor, Comfort boarded the bus to drive the team one hour and 20 minutes away to Swain Ski Hill.

Less than 45 minutes after leaving Rochester, Comfort veered off the road and hit an illegally parked tractor-trailer on the shoulder of Interstate 390.

The force of the impact split the bus in half, killing the team's coach, Rick Edwards, his son Brian, 13, and Cathy Roach, the mother of the team's goalie, Erin Roach.

The driver of the truck, Ernest Zeiset, 42, of Pennsylvania, was also killed. He had stopped so he could let his dogs out to run around.

Nineteen others were injured in the crash, including Labadie, Gault and Mailloux.

More cases still to come

New York law firm Seeger Weiss represents 11 of the victims and their families. They launched a lawsuit naming Coach Canada and J&J Hauling, the owner of the tractor-trailer.

More than 4½ years after the accident, the defendants agreed Coach Canada would accept 90 per cent of the responsibility, with J&J Hauling accepting the remaining 10 per cent.

"Admission of liability in this first phase of trial by the defendants was a significant development toward the resolution of years of litigation," said Chris Seeger, lead trial attorney.

The remaining eight victims are expected to have their cases go to trial in the coming months, said the law firm.

"These were among the less serious of the injuries suffered among our clients," said Moshe Horn, who represented Labadie, Gault and Mailloux. "This is a tremendous result."