Huu-ay-aht First Nation urges Province to upgrade Bamfield Road following report of 2019 bus crash

Huu-ay-aht First Nation urges Province to upgrade Bamfield Road following report of 2019 bus crash
File photo
The crashed bus being towed away from the site

Following the release of a report of the fatal UVic bus crash in September of 2019, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation is urging the province to make safety improvements to Bamfield Road.

The recently released report is in response to the bus crash on the Bamfield Main logging road September 2019 that claimed the lives of two students, John Geerdes and Emma Machado, after the charter bus fell down the side of an embankment when trying to let a car go by in the opposite direction.

The report looked into the safety protocols in place before the incident, and UVic’s response, and makes recommendations that Uvic has agreed to implement that will address travel policies for the university.

READ MORE: The released report on the UVic Bamfield bus crash, findings and recommendations

A release from the Huu-ay-aht First Nation on Friday says although it is good news UVic plans to adopt the safety measures, the report falls short when it comes to demanding upgrades to what they describe as a dangerous road.

“The report refers to the road as dangerous and makes recommendations on steps they can take to travel it more safely, but what we really need are significant improvements to the road itself,” explains Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr. “No one else should lose their life on this road. It is time to chip-seal it and make it safe for everyone who travels it.”

Chip-sealing is a pavement surface treatment that improves safety by providing an effective moisture barrier for the underlying pavement against water intrusion by sealing cracks in the pavement, creating good skid resistance.

The First Nation says the 85-kilometre logging road needs improvement, and Chief Dennis believes that if the road had been upgraded prior to the UVic trip last fall, the bus would not have rolled down the embankment. He stresses that recommendations like using pilot cars and not travelling at night will not actually make the road safe for everyone.

“If the province wants to honour the memory of these young adults, it must move forward on the chip-sealing of the Bamfield Road,” reads the release.

Last fall, Premier John Horgan travelled the road to Bamfield and agreed that safety improvements are needed, and Huu-ay-aht First Nation believes the time for action is now.

Huu-ay-aht says it has done the planning and engineering and is willing to contribute financially to a project that would vastly improve the safety of the road itself.

Chief Dennis says that road improvements could be beneficial for the province’s economy after COVID-19 because it is shovel-ready and workers could be on the ground quickly if the province chooses to move forward.

The Chief added he does not want to come across another crash like this one or mourn more lives lost due to dangerous driving conditions.

“This accident was devastating, and as a Nation, we felt the loss of these two young students and understand the impact this has had on their families as we have also lost friends and family on the Bamfield Road,” explains Chief Dennis.

Tayii Ḥaw̓ił ƛiišin (Head Chief Derek Peters) stresses that by committing to following through on today’s recommendations, UVic is honouring the sacred principles of the Huu-ay-aht people.

“The Machado and Geerdes families have asked that the road improvements be carried out as a legacy to their children instead of any form of memorial,” explains ƛiišin. “Since the road opened in the 1970s, Huu-ay-aht has also lost eight citizens and witnessed countless accidents on the dangerous road – including my grandfather. I would like this project to be done as a legacy for every life that has been lost on the Bamfield Road.”

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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