Three daughters of one of the 17 seniors who died in a crash in southwestern Manitoba this past summer say they want to see changes to the highway intersection where it happened to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.
At a news conference Monday, the provincial government unveiled a lengthy report outlining three possible options to help improve safety at the intersection of Highway 5 and the Trans-Canada Highway near the town of Carberry, Man., the site of a collision on June 15, 2023, between a semi-trailer truck and a bus full of seniors on a day trip to a casino.
The crash killed 17 people and injured eight others.
Adrienne Zurba, whose mother, Claudia, was one of the 17 people who were killed, came to Monday’s announcement in Dauphin, Man., “to put a face to what has happened here.”
“We need to make sure something gets done in that intersection,” she told reporters.
Zurba said she was pleased with the suggestions put forward in the report.
“It does give me some peace of knowing that they’re working their hardest to do this.”
The report’s three potential solutions include a roundabout, a wider median, or creating what’s known as a restricted crossing U-turn — or RCUT — at the intersection, which would eliminate left turns and through options on Highway 5 and instead force drivers to make a U-turn to get where they’re going.
Zurba said the RCUT option was one that stood out for her.
Not soon enough, say sisters
Her sisters, though, had mixed reactions to the report.
Valerie Owen, who watched the announcement online from her home in Selkirk, Man., said she was hoping for something more substantial — like a fully-controlled intersection.
She also had concerns about how long it might take for any safety improvements to come to fruition.
“I guess I’m frustrated because yes, there was the mass casualty incident on June 15th, but there was also accidents there before,” she said in a phone interview Monday evening.
“Why is it taking so long to do something?”
Her sister Sharon Wiebe, who lives in Alberta, echoed those concerns.
“It’s been seven months and, you know, they painted lines and put up a couple of signs — that’s not enough because accidents are still happening,” she said.
“And another two years before something more permanent is going to be up? It’s poor. It gets a big ‘F’ on my part.”
Collision data from roughly 10 years preceding the collision show there were 29 other crashes at the intersection in that time, with almost half involving injury or death — something the report says suggests “high-severity collision types are an issue at this location.”
Just weeks after the fatal crash, three people were seriously injured in a three-vehicle collision at that same intersection.
Hearing about that collision so soon after was infuriating, Wiebe said.
“When I hear there’s been another accident, like, I go into shock,” she said.
“Why is it still happening?”
Claudia Zurba, who was 87 when she died, was “a very active lady” and avid gardener who loved to sing in her church choir, Adrienne Zurba said.
The traumatic, sudden way in which her mother died made the loss especially hard to cope with, Zurba said, so the collision is still hard for her to talk about.
“Grief is one thing to deal with, but it’s the trauma, the severity of the accident,” she said.
Owen said watching Monday’s announcement made her emotional, something she hadn’t expected.
“It’s still raw, I guess more so than I anticipated.”
The morning of the crash, Owen had talked to her mom about going on the bus trip to the casino. The sequence of events that followed is something she says she’ll never forget and still finds it painful to talk about.
“That day will forever be burned in my brain — from what I was doing, who I was [talking] to, the sequence of events that unfolded, the calls to each other, my actions toward my family at home, and my first reactions when realizing that, you know, Mom was on that bus,” Owen said.
Honouring crash victims
The province has been in touch with community members about a grassroots-led effort to create a memorial for those who died in the collision.
Dauphin Mayor David Bosiak said now that it’s been almost seven months after the crash, the community is grappling with how to move forward from the tragedy while keeping the victims’ memories alive.
“[It’s] something we’ll never forget, but it’s also something that several people told us, ‘We don’t want that to be what identifies us, either,'” he said.
“So it’s trying to find that spot in between to be compassionate and caring, but to still be able to move on as a community.”
Following the release of the report on Monday, Bosiak said he was happy with the recommendations but also the way the province handled it by giving the families advance warning.
“I think that it just shows a level of caring from this government that I think is quite astonishing, quite frankly,” he said.
The province has earmarked $12 million to upgrade the intersection. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Lisa Naylor said she expects initial designs will be available in the next six to nine months.
Construction would begin in late 2025.