(John Geerdes and Emma Machado/Facebook)

A tragic University of Victoria field trip that ended in the death of two young students will result in changes to how the school conducts similar trips in the future.

UVic hired independent expert, Ross Cloutier, to examine the school’s planning and execution process after a bus carrying 45 first year Biology students and two Teaching Assistants slid off the roadway and down an embankment on September 13, 2019.

The accident occurred during an annual field trip to the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, and resulted in the deaths of 18-year-olds Emma Machado from Manitoba, and John Geerdes from Iowa.

See also: UVic hosts gathering to commemorate two 18-year-old students killed in bus crash last week

On Thursday, UVic released a report detailing recommendations made after Cloutier’s assessment which involved reviewing university policies, pre-trip information and planning processes, interviewing students, parents and university employees, and visiting the accident site and the Bamfield facility.

The 87-page report found that a series of what seemed to be non-related and low-consequence events can combine to form a much larger and catastrophic event.

In light of his findings, Coultier made dozens of recommendations, all of which the university said they will implement ahead of future field trips.

“We’re grateful to those who contributed to this report through interviews or written submissions including Emma’s and John’s families, the surviving students and their families, as well as the faculty members, instructors and staff at the university,” says Cassels.

“This was a harrowing event that presented complex challenges and those interviews and conversations would have been difficult. We care deeply about our students. This was devastating for us all.”

The school will be implementing the following measures for any future bus trips to Bamfield:

  • a hazard assessment and control program;
  • travel and arrival during daylight;
  • pre-determined itineraries;
  • an additional satellite communications device;
  • first aid equipment for the group size;
  • and appropriate staff on board who can enforce protocols such as adhering to the itinerary and the wearing of seatbelts.

The university along with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, the BMSC, and others continue to advocate to the BC government for improvements to the logging road which forms an essential corridor between Bamfield and Port Alberni.

Due to COVID-19, there will be no field trips to Bamfield until at least 2021, and buses will not be used for future trips until the recommendations have been implemented.

The full report, along with the list of 43 recommendations, can be found at this website.