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Manitoba RCMP say they’ve been unable to speak with driver in Carberry bus crash that killed 17

The driver of the bus involved in a crash that killed 17 seniors nearly a year ago in southwestern Manitoba has been unable to speak to RCMP due to a medical condition caused by the accident — and investigators may never hear his perspective on the province’s deadliest bus crash.

The bus was headed southbound on Highway 5, carrying 25 people from Dauphin to a casino near Carberry on June 15, 2023, when it hit by an eastbound semi-trailer truck as the bus crossed the Trans-Canada Highway. Police have previously said the semi had the right of way.

The eight people on the bus who survived the crash were all seriously injured.

Despite not being able to speak to the driver, Manitoba RCMP Supt. Rob Lasson said at a news conference Thursday the police force is confident that enough information has been gathered to provide Crown prosecutors with the evidence the need in the case.

“We won’t be able to talk to the driver,” Lasson said. “Even though we may never be able to speak to the driver, unfortunately, there’s a lot of other components and parts of the investigation that we … have gathered evidence on that will corroborate and support the answers that we’ve gotten to.”

A police officer stands at a podium.
Manitoba RCMP Supt. Rob Lasson, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, said investigators have been unable to speak with the bus driver involved in the 2023 crash near Carberry. (Gavin Axelrod/CBC)

That evidence is now under review by the Crown, which will decide whether to recommend charges.

There’s no exact timeline for when prosecutors will make the decision, but Lasson said he expects it will be sooner rather than later.

“It’s a very big step because our ultimate goal from the beginning of this tragedy was … to provide answers not only to the families but also to the public,” he said.

The complex investigation included talking to survivors, analyzing vehicles and securing forensic reports, he said.

‘A very chaotic, sad scene’

Lasson said the sunny summer Thursday in June 2023 when he got the email first alerting him to the crash will be forever etched in his memory.

“This is something that is unimaginable.… This was a very chaotic, sad scene to attend and it will stick with the investigators for the rest of their lives,” Lasson said.

Lasson said he’s proud of the officers for how they handled the complex situation, and the relationships they built with family and community in the process. He praised Manitoba for coming together in a multi-agency response during the tragedy.

“The police could not have done this alone,” he said. “I can’t thank the community and family enough for their ongoing support and patience.”

First responders are still feeling the impacts of being at the crash scene that day — something the RCMP continues to monitor, he said.

The majority of officers involved in the response are back at work, which speaks to the resiliency of the officers and the support systems in place, he said.

Lasson and other RCMP members — some of whom responded to the crash — will be in Dauphin this weekend for the unveiling of a monument honouring the victims.

“It will be very emotional,” Lasson said. “Police officers are people too, and when we experience things like this there is a personal connection made.”

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