Worst Traffic Accidents in Canadian History

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A Brief History

On April 6, 2018, a bus carrying a junior hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, crashed into a semi-tractor trailer near Armley, Saskatchewan, leaving 10 members of the team dead and also killing an additional 6 persons.  Another 13 people were injured, but the driver of the semi survived.  In spite of the horrific cost in lives, this particular tragedy was not among the absolute worst in the history of Canada.  Today we remember some of those terrible traffic accidents that rank among the worst in Canadian history.  Among the worst Canadian traffic wrecks are crashes that  killed more people than the Humboldt Broncos wreck, tragedies that took 20, 19, and 17 lives respectively (not listed here) and we will discuss some even more tragic events.  (See our article “Are School Children Safe on a Bus?”)

Starting with the accident cited on top, the semi driver was cited for failing to stop for a flashing red stop signal.  He was convicted of 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and 13 other charges.  He was sentenced to 8 years in prison, with the expectation that this immigrant from India will be deported upon release.  The flashing stop light was installed in 1997 after another fatal accident the same intersection.  The speed of the bus when it hit the semi was estimated to be 100 kph, the posted speed limit.

Digging Deeper

Les Eboulements, Quebec, Oct. 13, 1999, 44 dead.

A bus hauling 47 elderly passengers of the Golden Age Club plus a driver lost its brakes and sailed off the road into a ravine, killing 44 of the people aboard, the deadliest highway crash in Canadian history.  The driver was among those killed.  Ironically, the tragedy occurred on Thanksgiving Day!  An eerily similar crash occurred in 1974 at the same location, this time costing 15 lives.

Eastman, Quebec, August 4, 1978, 41 dead.

Once again brake failure was to blame for a horrific bus accident, this time a bus carrying physically and mentally handicapped people.  When the brakes failed, the bus ran off the road into Lac d’Argent, where it briefly bobbed around, possibly for as long as 5 minutes, before sinking, leaving 41 passengers drowned.  The group had been out for a night at the theater and was returning when the tragedy occurred.  The driver and 6 people (volunteers) assisting the handicapped passengers survived.  Victims ranged in age from 14 to 85.

Webb/Swift Current, Saskatchewan, May 28, 1980, 22 Dead.

A bus carrying workers from the Canadian Pacific Railway on the Trans-Canada Highway was struck by a car, causing the bus to go over on its side, skidding down the highway.  An oncoming tanker truck carrying liquid asphalt then rammed the overturned bus, leaving 22 dead.  Among the dead were mostly young men and teenage boys.  The driver of the tanker, who survived the wreck, said he tried desperately to avoid the bus, running his truck into a ditch, but the trailer hit the bus anyway, resulting in explosions and fires, leaving many of the bodies burned horribly.  The men in the car that hit the bus head on had been drinking.  Among the dead were 12 workers from Newfoundland.  There were 8 survivors.

Dorion Quebec, October 7, 1966, 21 dead.

When it is bus vs. train, train wins.  This time it was a school bus carrying about 40 high school students to a dance.  The bus came to a railroad crossing with the gates down and a train passing.  The bus stopped, and when the gate went up after the train had gone by, the bus continued on its way across the tracks.  An unseen train from the other direction was barreling at full speed and hit the bus, leaving 19 students and the driver dead.  Another student died later.  The bus had been broken in half, with one half thrown 300 feet and the other half dragged 2000 feet by the train.  Some reports that 2 or more students had gotten off the bus to manually lift the gates after the first train passed and the second train was not seen are probably true.  The track crossing was replaced by an underpass in 1972.

Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever been in a traffic accident?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Broncos Fan. Humboldt Strong Notebook.  CreateSpace, 2018.

Dix, Jay. Investigation of Road Traffic Fatalities: An Atlas.  CRC Press; 1 edition, 2017.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Andrew Scheer of staff who support the Conservative Caucus in Ottawa standing in solidarity by wearing #JerseysForHumboldt, is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.  This image was originally posted to Flickr by Andrew Scheer at https://flickr.com/photos/150938310@N02/41455851942. It was reviewed on  by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-zero.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.