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Manitoba municipal leaders repeat call for safety upgrades at ‘extremely dangerous’ site of deadly bus crash

Municipal leaders and residents are once again calling on the provincial government to make immediate safety improvements at a southwestern Manitoba intersection that was the site of a deadly bus crash in June, after another serious collision on Monday. 

The Manitoba government must make immediate temporary safety improvements at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 5, along with a thorough review and a long-term plan to ensure “something like this does not happen again,” the Municipality of North Cypress-Langford and the Town of Carberry said in a Tuesday statement to Radio-Canada.

On Monday, a pickup truck driving south on Highway 5 entered the Trans-Canada Highway and collided with an eastbound SUV, RCMP said. Both the truck and SUV then collided with a third vehicle waiting at the stop sign south of the Trans-Canada.

Three people were taken to hospital with serious injuries. An RCMP media relations officer said Tuesday that one person who was taken to hospital in critical condition has been upgraded to stable.

A stop seen lies on the grassy ground next to a bouquet of yellow flowers.
A knocked-down traffic post is seen at the scene of Monday’s collision. A bouquet of yellow flowers — a memorial from an earlier crash at the same spot — was crushed under the post. (Amine Ellatify/Radio-Canada)

Monday’s collision comes just weeks after the June 15 crash involving a bus transporting seniors and a semi-trailer, causing the deaths of 17 people who were on the bus and leaving eight others injured.

“Over the years there have been many serious collisions [at the intersection], including several fatalities,” the municipalities’ Tuesday statement said.

“With the increase of traffic with tourism, industrial, agricultural and overall growth in our region, this intersection has become increasingly busy,” the statement says.

“You do not need to be at this intersection very long to see the confusion and danger caused by the current design.”

After the fatal June crash, the Town of Carberry started a petition to address safety issues at what it called an “extremely dangerous intersection.”

“Failure to do so could result in more tragedy,” that petition said.

It has more than 2,300 signatures to date.

White crosses are seen in green grass as a semi-truck drives by in the background.
White crosses were placed at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 5 near Carberry, Man., after the fatal June crash. (Amine Ellatify/Radio-Canada)

Former Carberry mayor Stuart Olmstead says the municipalities have lobbied the province for upgrades at that infrastructure for years.

“I can tell you point blank that every resident of Carberry has had a close call at that intersection at one point in time or another,” he said in a Tuesday interview.

Years ago, traffic lights at that intersection were removed, he said, which he doesn’t understand.

“That scares me when I go through that intersection in the winter time when the snow is blowing because if the visibility is down, you can’t see past the quarter mile,” Olmstead said.

An overhead view of a highway intersection. Several vehicles are on the road, and there are large skid and burn marks across the highway.
A drone photo captures the intersection of the Trans Canada Highway and Highway 5 that was the site of a fatal crash near Carberry, Man., on June 15, 2023. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

A spokesperson from Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure says the province is addressing immediate safety concerns by installing advanced warning signs, repainting pavement markings, refreshing rumble strips and replacing signs as needed.

Pavement markings and rumble strips are expected to be refreshed within the next two weeks and signs will be replaced as needed in the weeks to follow, the spokesperson said.

Olmstead says that’s not nearly enough to improve safety in the area.

“It’s band-aids upon a larger issue,” he said. “You can look throughout the number one across Manitoba, there are several intersections that need upgrades … they have to be massive infrastructure upgrades.”

He worries more people will be hurt or killed in crashes before meaningful improvements are made to the intersection.

“That’s the sad reality of it. It’s disconcerting and it’s disheartening,” Olmstead said.

A full review of the intersection, which will identify options for longer-term safety improvements, is expected to be complete by the late fall, the government spokesperson said.

“Safety is paramount, and making sure that all the people that are driving through the intersection are safe,” said Premier Heather Stefanson at an unrelated news conference.

Spike in deadly crashes in 2023

Sgt. Paul Manaigre from the Manitoba RCMP doesn’t have data about the number of crashes at this particular intersection, but says the number of fatal crashes in the province has jumped by nine from the previous year.

By August of 2022, Manitoba saw 43 fatal crashes that claimed the lives of 46 people.

This year, there have been 51 collisions involving death where 75 people have lost their lives.

“There’s usual high risk driving behaviours that many times are identified as being involved, like not wearing a seat belt, drinking and driving, speeding, the use of cell phones,” he said in a Tuesday interview.

“Put [cell phones] away, slow down, take your time and hopefully you get to where you need to go safely.”

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