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Women’s Hockey Team Bus Crash Lawsuit Results in $36 Million Dollar Settlement

On January 29, 2005, The Windsor Wildcats, a Canadian women’s youth hockey team from Windsor, Ontario, was traveling through New York, on their way to a ski resort for the holidays. As they traveled, it is likely that they never expected that their trip would end in anything but merriment. However, unfortunately for them, their trip ended in tragedy instead. As the team’s bus traveled through Western New York, it collided with a tractor-trailer truck, causing an auto accident that ended in the death of 4 individuals, and the injury to 19.

According to The Washington Post, the bus, which was carrying a women’s hockey team, comprised of young women ranging from 19 to 21 years of age, swerved on Interstate Highway 390, and slammed into a tractor truck that was parked on the side of the highway on Jan. 29, 2005. The trucking accident occurred about 30 miles outside of Rochester, at dusk.

The Washington Post reports that the police initially suspected that driver fatigue and inexperience led to the crash. The 24 year old bus driver, Ryan Comfort had only driven for the bus company for two months. Although the bus driver escaped criminal charges because a grand jury declined to indict him, witnesses said he was driving erratically before the crash. The bus driver pleaded guilty to a logbook violation and a traffic violation of failing to stay in the proper lane and was fined $300.

Four individuals were killed as a result of this tragic collision. Those individual include: Richard Edwards, the coach of the Windsor Wildcats women’s hockey team; his 13-year-old son, Brian; a third passenger, Catherine Roach; and the driver of the tractor trailer truck, Ernest Zeiset Jr. All of the remaining passengers on the bus sustained injuries. Those nineteen individuals suffered injuries which ranged from broken bones to brain trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The lawsuits filed as a result of this bus-tractor trailer collision were set to begin with the trial for Traci Butler, the team’s assistant coach, which was set to start on December 9, 2011. According to court documents, Butler, who was one of the individual injured as a result of the collision, suffered a brain injury, broke several bones and became partially deaf.

However, before any of the cases went to trial, the insurance companies settled for a total of $36 million dollars. The two insurers of the bus, which was owned by Coach Canada, are paying $22.5 million, which is almost two-thirds of the settlement. The three insurers of truck operator, J & J Hauling Inc. of York Springs, Pa., and trailer owner Verdelli Farms of Harrisburg, Pa., are contributing $13.5 million.

Although the driver of the bus was not indicted on criminal charges, the authorities suspected that his actions led to the accident. According to The Washington Post, authorities alleged that the bus driver lied about the hours he worked in another job during the three days before the crash and failed to report in the driver’s log book that he drove team members around Rochester in the six hours before they embarked on the ski trip.

Regardless of what penalty, if any, is imposed upon the bus driver, as a Georgia attorney who represents those who have suffered injury or loss as a result of an auto or trucking accident, I am glad that those involved in this collision were compensate in the manner that they deserve.