The wreckage of the fatal crash outside of Tisdale, Sask. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Humboldt bus crash investigation will take months: experts

Analyst says factors will include weather, visibility, speed and mechanical condition of vehicles

The investigation into a deadly crash that killed 15 people in northeastern Saskatchewan last Friday will be a long and painstaking one, according to several collision experts.

Retired RCMP collision analyst Rob Creasser says months of work could lie ahead for the analysts and reconstruction experts who are tasked with piecing together the circumstances that caused the collision between a semi truck and a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team.

Weather, skid marks, visibility, speed and the mechanical condition of the vehicles are just a few of the factors that will eventually be analyzed in order to reconstruct the crash, according to Creasser, a 28-year veteran with the RCMP in British Columbia.

“It’s almost physics,” he said in a phone interview. “Two objects come together and they depart at different angles, and you’re looking for any indication of braking, skid marks, gouge marks on the roadway, that kind of thing.”

READ MORE: Hockey sticks on porches across the country in tribute to Humboldt crash victims

READ MORE: B.C. hockey chaplain helps community grieve after Humboldt Broncos’ bus crash

Creasser said the initial gathering of information at the scene takes hours or days, as investigators try to find clues and work to create a comprehensive map that includes the location of each piece of debris and the vehicles’ resting places.

But analyzing that data can take much longer.

Computer simulations, he said, will eventually recreate the moments leading to the crash, while a parallel investigation will tackle witness and survivor statements.

There are also vehicle maintenance reports to obtain, and mechanics to be brought in to examine the engines of the shattered vehicles for any defects.

“When there’s a human death, there’s an autopsy,” he said. ”Well, this is the autopsy of the vehicles.”

In Friday’s tragedy, the truck was heading west at the intersection south of Nipawin when it collided with the bus. The force of the crash propelled both vehicles into the ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection.

Aerial footage showed the bus on its side, its roof peeled back and its front end destroyed.

The trailer of the truck lay nearby in a shattered mess, with bags of its peat moss cargo scattered all around. The tractor part was intact, lying on its passenger side.

The semi truck would have had to yield to a stop sign before crossing over the highway the hockey bus was travelling on. There is a stand of trees on the southeast corner of the intersection, limiting visibility of the approach on both roads.

In the case of the Humboldt accident, ”the scene talks a lot,” according to former Quebec provincial police crash expert Pierre Bellemare.

Bellemare, who retired in 2005 after 25 years of service, says that since the road travelled by the bus didn’t have a stop sign, investigators will have to determine whether the semi truck came to a full stop at the intersection.

That, he said, will involve speaking to survivors and witnesses, confirming the truck’s speed, load, and mechanical condition, and checking for anything that may have impeded the driver’s field of vision.

Investigators will also look at the safety of the intersection where the crash occurred.

Jason Young, the president of Toronto-based reconstruction company Advantage Forensics, says analysts will look at the intersection’s history of recent accidents and make sure the road meets Canadian design standards for safety and visibility.

“We’re looking at the visibility across the corners, the visibility the driver on the side road has of approaching vehicles in both directions,” said Young, who has not viewed the site and is not involved in the investigation.

If traffic conditions and the accident history warrant, municipalities could eventually change an intersection to a four-way stop or a traffic signal, he said.

Some experts, he said, are also recommending increasing the number of roundabouts at intersections as a way to avoid often deadly T-bone collisions.

All three experts agree that a major investigation such as the Humboldt one is likely to take time, involving input from police, reconstruction experts, government agencies, mechanics, engineers, and eventually the Crown.

“This is something you don’t want to rush,” Creasser said. “You want to do a very thorough investigation, and you’re not counting on only you.”

He’s hoping the public will spare a thought for the front-line workers, many of whom are likely struggling with the trauma they’ve witnessed.

“You can’t unsee something,” he said. “You can imagine what those members who are first on scene, and those who came subsequently, saw.”

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Rail-safety forum planned for White Rock this Friday

Event to include municipal, federal, provincial governments

‘Connecting Threads’ and more in Surrey Art Gallery’s fall shows

Free admission at opening reception and panel discussion Sunday afternoon

SFU unveils new lab at Surrey Memorial Hospital

Combination of MRI, MEG allows for ‘best possible windows’ intro brain function

Surrey First vows to expand city efforts to make kids with autism ‘feel at home’

Initiative would include staff and coach training, as well as a sensory room in Clayton Community Centre

Details released for controversial Cloverdale supportive housing project

Community reaction has been ‘unprecedented’: Cloverdale BIA

U.S. congressman issues dire warning to Canada’s NAFTA team: time is running out

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to resume talks with the U.S.

B.C. marijuana workers may face U.S. border scrutiny

Cannabis still illegal federally south of the border

New political party holds an informational session in Vernon

Maxime Bernier’s The People’s Party of Canada draws about 2o interested patrons to Vernon pub.

B.C. MLAs reminded of rural school struggles

Finance committee hears of falling enrolment, staff shortages

B.C. VIEWS: ’Not photo radar’ coming soon to high-crash areas

ICBC deficit now largely due to reckless and distracted driving

Researchers tag great white shark in Atlantic Canada

Information will be used to learn more about where white sharks move in Canadian waters

Mix-up of bodies leads to funeral home reforms in Nova Scotia

One woman was was mistakenly cremated, another was embalmed and presented to family members during a visitation that went horribly wrong

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

Cyclists finish North America trip to highlight Ukraine struggle

The 10,000 bike ride raised over $10,000 for victims of the war in Ukraine.

Most Read