Inquiry into fatal Banff tour bus accident finds inadequate safety, training and enforcement

·3 min read
The bus that killed one woman and seriously injured her husband, pictured in the Bow River in 2016 after it rolled forward into the couple.  (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)
The bus that killed one woman and seriously injured her husband, pictured in the Bow River in 2016 after it rolled forward into the couple. (Dan McGarvey/CBC - image credit)

A fatality inquiry into a tour bus accident in Banff that left one woman dead and her husband suffering life-altering injuries has recommended better safety training for drivers and more proactive oversight of the industry.

The incident took place in September 2016, when a tour bus carrying 17 guests stopped at the Castle Mountain lookout in Banff National Park. The guests and the driver got off the small bus to take in the view.

Two of those guests, Jing Zhang and her husband, De Qiang Wang, stood on the sidewalk in front of the bus, which rolled forward and struck the couple.

Zhang was pushed down an embankment toward the river and was killed. Wang suffered a brain injury, fractured vertebrae and broken bones, according to the inquiry report.

"He was unconscious in hospital for approximately one month. He suffers long term or permanent physical, psychological and emotional problems, requiring long term or permanent day-to-day care," reads the report.

"As a result, Mr. Wang is unable to work for the rest of his life."

Driver of the bus

The driver of the bus, Jian Song, was not able to attend the inquiry. However, a court case that ended with Song being fined $2,300 and losing his licence for one year was highlighted in the report.

The inquiry report said Song had left the bus's transmission in the drive position with the keys still in the ignition.

Song had the proper licence at the time of the incident but had not received proper training and was put in the position to drive the bus at the last minute. The day prior, he was acting as the tour guide, while another person drove.

The company usually had the two roles separate, but Song was forced to take on both jobs.

At his trial for careless driving, Song said he was distracted by other passengers when everyone disembarked at the Castle Mountain lookout.

Audit of company and recommendations

An audit of the company that Song worked for, Amazing Travel Inc., found there was inadequate training, failure to monitor service hour requirements meant to prevent fatigue, insufficient safety mechanisms and insufficient maintenance programs.

Beyond shortcomings on the part of the company, the inquiry found the regulator, Alberta Transportation Services (ATS), relies on voluntary compliance rather than proactive enforcement.

It also said the ATS learned of the accident through the news and it was those media reports that triggered an audit of Amazing Travel. The inquiry suggests there should be a better alert system for more timely starts of investigations.

Since the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in 2018, new carriers go through a mini audit nine to 12 months after they are issued a licence.

The inquiry found the driver of the bus did not have adequate training and recommends operators be required to provide safety training and practices for drivers and ATS engage in more proactive oversight, including asking for proof of training programs, supervision and reporting methods prior to issuing a safety fitness licence.

Amazing Travel has since stopped operating.

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