‘Looked at every aspect:’ Truck driver criminally charged in Broncos bus crash

By Dean Bennett

THE CANADIAN PRESS

The driver of a transport truck faces 29 criminal charges in a fatal collision that killed 16 people, including 10 players, with the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team.

Thirteen other players were injured.

RCMP say Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, 29, is accused of dangerous driving causing death as well as causing bodily injury.

He was arrested Friday morning and was being held in custody pending a court appearance in Saskatchewan next week.

“Mr. Sidhu was arrested without incident at his Calgary residence,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki told a news conference Friday in Regina.

Sidhu was charged exactly three months after the crash at a rural Saskatchewan intersection in the late afternoon of April 6.

The Broncos were on their way to a playoff game in Nipawin, Sask., when their bus and a semi-trailer carrying peat moss collided.

The truck driver was not hurt. He was taken into custody after the crash, but was released the same night.

RCMP said they will not release any details of the investigation or what they believe happened. The only thing the Mounties have said to this point is that the truck was in the intersection when the collision occurred.

In April, police said they had recovered driver log books along with engine control modules that had been sent to California for further analysis.

RCMP Supt. Derek Williams said their probe was exhaustive and included 60 core investigators combing through records, interviewing five dozen witnesses and using 3D technology to determine what happened.

“In order to lay these charges, we require evidence the motor vehicle was being operated in a manner that is dangerous to the public,” said Williams.

“We’ve looked at every aspect of the collision, including speed of the vehicles, point of impact, position of the vehicles, impairment, road and weather conditions and witness evidence.

“Every piece of information was carefully examined.”

Each of the 16 counts of dangerous driving causing death carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. The 13 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm could garner 10 years each.

Tom Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralyzed from the chest down, said he was relieved charges were laid.

“It’s finally come to charges being laid, so we are very happy about that because we don’t want that to be ignored at all,” Straschnitzki told The Canadian Press.

“It should put a little closure to the first step and the second step is … let’s see what the courts do and find out what exactly happened.

“I think that’s what people want to know. What exactly happened? How it did happen and why it happened.”

Straschnitzki said he and his wife, Michelle, hadn’t thought much about charges in the three months since the crash.

“We were just too focused on Ryan and just had the faith in the RCMP that they did a lot of hard work to get it done. I guess we’ll just wait and see in the courts.”

Sukhmander Singh, owner of the Calgary-based trucking company that employed Sidhu, said in April that the driver was going to the doctor and receiving counselling.

Singh said he basically went out of business after the crash because Alberta Transportation ordered his company, Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd., to keep its only other truck off the road.

On Friday, Transportation Minister Brian Mason said ways to improve trucking safety could be announced within two weeks and will include qualification and training of drivers of large vehicles, how to test drivers in all licence categories and how better to regulate the trucking industry.

He also said results of a review of intersection safety on Alberta’s highways should be available by the end of the summer.

Saskatchewan’s Crown insurance company said in an internal memo sent to driving instructors after the crash in April that a mandatory training plan should be in place by next year.

The memo from Saskatchewan Government Insurance said details were still being worked out, but the curriculum was to include at least 70 hours of training in the classroom, yard and behind the wheel.

The tragedy sparked an outpouring of emotion across Canada with offers of money and other support for the victims and families involved. A GoFundMe campaign raised just over $15 million for the survivors and the families of those who died.

The Humboldt Broncos released a statement Friday saying the organization has faith in the justice system and will be watching as the court process unfolds.

“Our primary focus continues to be supporting the survivors, families and others that were directly impacted by the tragedy on April 6th,” the team said. “We will have no further comment on the investigation or the resulting charges until the process has concluded.”

_ With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary and Samantha Maciag in Regina

Insurance bureau has advice for residents who blame wind for flood damage

Industry group says adjusters evaluate ‘circumstances of the entire event’

Jordan Gill · CBC News

Private insurance companies in New Brunswick are urging people who suffered property damage during spring flooding to contact their agents directly to discuss their individual policies and whether wind damage is covered.

This comes after retired insurance agent Mac Burns launched a campaign to help people who have had their claims turned down because they don’t have flood coverage, even though in many cases the damage didn’t happen until powerful winds came up the first weekend in May.

Burns said that since the “But For The Wind” campaign began, he has been contacted by 23 people whose claims have been denied by insurance companies.

Erin Norwood, the Atlantic manager of government relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, said people may not have “correct information.”

“When a claim is presented for loss or damage … the circumstances of the entire event are analyzed against the coverage terms and conditions,” she said.

Insurance ombudsman can help

Richard and Judy Ingram say their insurance adjuster attributes the damage in their cottage to the flood, although wind was the prime culprit. (CBC)

Richard and Judy Ingram said their insurance adjuster told them the damage to their cottage likely wouldn’t be covered because they didn’t have flood insurance.

But the Ingrams say the damage was actually caused by the wind, which their policy does cover.

Norwood said all factors that contributed to the damage will be taken into consideration by insurance companies.

Some retired insurance agents have banded together to form a task force to help get information to people who suffered wind damage on May 5 during the spring flood. The Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Erin Norwood is the Atlantic Manager of Government Relations, she says every policy is different and people need to check with their broker to get the correct information. 11:46

“Loss or damage from a single occurrence with multiple causes, such as this case, are adjusted and settled as one event. A policyholder doesn’t need to submit a water claim and then a distinct wind claim for the same occurrence.”

Norwood said if cottage owners have a complaint about an insurance adjuster’s findings, each company has an in-house ombudsman who can help.

“It is available, it’s there to be used, and if you do have concerns that’s where you should be sending them,” she said.

Urged to call insurance agents

Norwood said the best people to answer questions about a cottage owner’s insurance policy are at the company that provided the insurance since there’s no standard in the industry as to what’s covered.

“Every policy is worded differently, ” she said.

“The insurance industry is a very competitive market, so products offered by companies differ to meet different consumer … needs.”

Norwood said the Insurance Bureau of Canada also has staff who can answer questions.

Just as cottage owners have been denied help under their insurance policies, they have received only limited assistance from the province.

Cottage owners can apply for flood recovery assistance up to $6,100, but only for cleaning up debris outside their cottages, not for cleaning anything touched by floodwaters inside their cottages.

Cottage owners fight for insurance companies to recognize wind damage in flood

Elizabeth Fraser · CBC News 

At the beginning of May, blustery winds lifted Richard and Judy Ingram’s cottage right off its substructure — slamming the building into the waters of Masquapit Lake.

The incident damaged everything inside the building, which has been in the family for three generations.

“We couldn’t get into the door, the water was still too deep around it,” said Judy Ingram.

Within a week, the couple filed an insurance claim, in which they said wind was the main cause of the damage.

But an insurance adjuster told them their claim probably wouldn’t be covered because they didn’t have flood insurance.

“He was talking water, I was talking wind … I know I don’t have any flood insurance,” said Richard Ingram.

“My issue was not flood, my issue was strictly wind.”

It’s been several weeks and they still haven’t heard back from their insurance company.

“We certainly can’t afford to repair everything,” said Judy Ingram.

“We’re both pensioners and we have what we have. There’s no chance we’re going to get a big bonus at the end of the year to cover these costs.”

The couple said repairs inside the cottage could cost them at least $40,000. The estimate includes rebuilding walls, putting in new doors and flooring — but not lifting the cottage back onto its substructure.

He said most of the damage happened in PC ridings, and figured many of the people living in those areas would contact their MLAs.

“In order for us to get the message out, we want to talk to Blaine Higgs and say, ‘Can you help us get in touch with these people?'” he said.

“We don’t have a big following, we have no following right now. If I posted something on Facebook that said ‘But For the Wind task force,’ nobody would know.”

Wind claims denied

Over the past few weeks, he’s seen 23 wind claims that have been denied by different insurance companies.

“Some people have cottages with mortgages on them and their cottages are completely destroyed, so they’re looking for help,” Burns said.

“They don’t know where to turn to and that’s why we’re trying to help, to give them some guidance.”

The group wants to bring these claims back to insurance companies so they can have another look.

Mac Burns is a retired insurance agent who has gathered a group of retired insurance professionals to help people like the Ingrams. (CBC)

“We do think there’s strength in numbers that the more vocal we are, the more support we have, that the insurance companies will look more favourably on it,” Burns said.

“We want to go to head office and say, ‘Here’s your policy holders, here’s their situation let’s look at it again.'”

A public meeting will take place Friday at 7 p.m. at Douglas Harbor Community Centre and in Jemseg on Sunday at 2 p.m. for cottage and homeowners interested in getting a second opinion.

Burns said he has faced some pushback from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, which  represents insurance companies.

He said the organization has concerns about what his group is doing in reaching out to help the public.

But he’s not willing to give up.

“If we didn’t think we had an opportunity to get claims paid, we wouldn’t be volunteering our time,” he said.

“Getting it jacked up is going to be the biggest cost and if they can do that without destroying the roof maybe we can move ahead but if it cracks in two we’ll just have to have a bonfire,” said Judy.

Although they haven’t heard back from their insurance company, they may get some help combing through their policy from a group of retired insurance professionals calling themselves “But for the Wind.”

‘It was quite shocking when I read the notation that the insurers were being compelled to comply’

Read more

About 10,000 homes were in N.B. flood areas, but damage still unclear:minister

FREDERICTON _ New Brunswick’s environment minister has given a new sense of scale to the province’s record-setting floods, saying as many as 10,000 homes and businesses were within flood zones.

Andrew Harvey said Thursday that precise figures have yet to come in on the extent of the damage those structures suffered, as citizens are still filing their claims for disaster relief.

“There have been close to 10,000 for residential or commercial properties that could be affected,” he said during a news conference.

“Some of these numbers are moving as we get new information as to how many actual applications we have for disaster financial assistance.”

The minister said the figure was based on Service New Brunswick’s property identification numbers located within the flooded areas.

Provincial officials also said that as of Thursday morning, there were 2,200 people who had registered for the disaster relief program, which covers some of the uninsurable damages in an effort to get homeowners back on their feet.

Meanwhile, the province has estimated there are also about 2,000 recreational properties that have suffered damage.

The rivers swollen by heavy rains and snow melt  swamped homes throughout the region and caused some cottages to collapse, with some even floating off their foundations.

Harvey also told reporters the province will have to consider changing the rules governing what can be built in the flood plains of the Saint John River and other waterways.

The province had announced that it will require property owners to start considering flood mitigation measures before they’re given a permit to rebuild or renovate in areas within 30 metres of the water.

However, Harvey conceded that this is merely a starting point, as wider changes to municipal bylaws and zoning rules have to be considered in the wake of the second major flood in a decade in his province.

“As time goes on those are decisions that are going to have to be made about zoning and about where people are building,” he said.

“These are some tough decisions that will have to be made … and we as a government at some point in the future will have to look at the issue about zoning.”

Craig Stewart, vice president of federal affairs for Insurance Bureau of Canada, said in an interview that there is no time to lose in getting fresh rules in place  and suggests modeling them on zoning created in High River, Alta., which suffered devastating river flooding in 2013.

“This should have been done yesterday,” he said.

“Given lessons learned from flood events over the past few years, absolute priority should be given to changing zoning laws so that we stop putting people in harm’s way.”

After the 2013 floods, High River brought in bylaws that turned the highest risk areas into parkland and prohibited rebuilding in those areas.

Harvey said he’s hoping the most recent events are heightening awareness that flooding isn’t going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“I mean hopefully the message to the people of New Brunswick today is, these are not one in every 100 years. These are 2008 and in 2018, who knows when the next flood could be? Nobody knows,” he said.

Harvey said one bright spot was the announcement on Thursday that the government of Nova Scotia would be making a $100,000 donation to the Canadian Red Cross to help residents.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced the funding, saying the province wants to “support our neighbours in their time of need.”

McNeil said about six provincial staff have also been sent to assist in the flood’s aftermath, to help process claims and inspect highway infrastructure.

McNeil said the help isn’t unusual.

Waters rising in flood ravaged southern B.C. as residents brace for ’round two’

GRAND FORKS, B.C. _ There is a feeling of “calm apprehension” in the southern British Columbia city of Grand Forks as officials warn of a coming second wave of flood waters, says Brett Swope.

The pastor at the Grand Forks Baptist Church said he noticed the flood waters returned on Tuesday when he drove down a local road covered in 15 centimetres of water. It had been dry on Monday, he said in an interview as he travelled around assessing the flood situation.

The residents of Grand Forks were unsure what water levels to expect in the coming days, Swope said.

“Some forecasts are calling for it to be higher, others are calling for it to be just lower than we had recently, but everybody’s just sort of bracing for the impact and trying to do everything they can to be prepared,” he said.

At least 1,500 homes in the Kootenay Boundary regional district, which includes Grand Forks, remained evacuated Tuesday following flooding over the last several days. Provincial officials say evacuation orders covered another 500 homes around the province, while more than 2,600 homes were on evacuation alert.

Swope said he’s been amazed at the community’s tireless labour.

“When I think of the sense of how our community is feeling, I think that they’re, you know, kind of approaching everything with a calm apprehension.”

He said “hundreds upon hundreds” of volunteers have prepared tens of thousands of sandbags in advance of potential flooding this week and residents are working from sun up to sun down.

Jessica Mace of the Kettle River Watershed Authority said temperatures higher than 30 C and exhausting work is wearing on the thousand plus volunteers in Grand Forks.

“People have been working really long hours,” said Mace, “they’re so thirsty and tired and worn out.”

Heavy rains and spring runoff combined to push floodwaters to levels not seen in 70 years in and around Grand Forks last week.

Gordy Shaw moved to Grand Forks with his wife eight years ago from Richmond because he said he was worried about dykes bursting in the Metro Vancouver city.

“I worked all the sawmills along the Fraser River, and I never anticipated this little Kettle River (in Grand Forks) would ever flow like it did today.”

Shaw said he had about 30 centimetres of water seep into his garage and learned over coffee with his neighbours on Tuesday that he was lucky compared with the damage experienced by others.

“They just talked to their insurance company, and the insurance company just said ‘No, I’m sorry sir, it’s overland flooding and you have no insurance,’ ‘” said Shaw.

Chris Marsh of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary said water levels were rising again along the Granby and Kettle rivers, which meet in Grand Forks.

“The forecast from the River Forecast Centre is for levels that are possibly equivalent to or higher than the peaks we saw last year, which are record peaks,” added Marsh.

Emergency Management BC said the Boundary region and Similkameen Valley have already seen significant flooding, while risks are also high across the Okanagan and Shuswap regions.

Officials from the regional district said the rapid snowmelt is pushing river levels higher and there was a forecast of rain for the region by Wednesday.

An evacuation alert was also issued Tuesday by the township of Langley for part of Glen Valley, as well as Brae and McMillan islands, after the Fraser River was measured at 5.5 metres in Mission, about 70 kilometres east of Vancouver.

It was the first evacuation alert of the 2018 flood season for any community near Metro Vancouver.

By Spencer Harwood in Vancouver

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