Labour-Day 1977 Bus crash at Lantzville
On Labour Day weekend in 1977, 11 people were killed in Vancouver Island's worst ever traffic accident.
It happened at an unsignaled intersection on the Island Highway, in Lantzville. The location is very close to the north-end "Welcome to Nanaimo" sign, where Highways 19 & 19A now split-off from each other.
It was a 3-way collision between a V.I. Coach Lines bus (en route to Victoria? from Campbell River), a pickup truck and a flat-bed semi (with heavy equipment on the flat bed).
I have found virtually nothing on the internet, re this accident. I found 1 brief mention in a data base called "great Canadian disasters". So these details are from my memory (I have a quirky keen memory for detail).
Apparently the accident was a fluke of timing, as the pickup pulled out into traffic, causing the accident. The flatbed-semi swerved and collided with the bus coming from the other direction. 1 fatality was the pickup driver; the other 10 fatalities were on the bus.
I was 9 years old at the time, and me & my family happened to be camping a couple of KM's away (Shoregrove Resort, on Dickinson Rd), that weekend. So we heard the sirens, and saw the highway traffic diverted down a country-road all day long.
I remember reading the news story in the old Nanaimo Daily Free Press, reading and re-reading the story, as its tragedy had me spell bound. My photo-memory says that the headline was "11 killed in worst Island crash", or something like that.
20 years later, I was working on a job at the Nanaimo Hospital, and happened to be working with a man who had been in charge of the morgue, back in those days. So I asked him if he remembered that 1977 Labour Day weekend. For sure, he remembered it, as he was of course called into work (from whatever he was doing on that holiday weekend), to deal with the worst mass-disaster in terms of deaths that the NRGH hospital had ever seen.
So, does anyone else here recall this accident? Like I said above, I'm going on memory re what I recall reading in the news from 1977. Please post any corrections to my recollections and your memories of it.
ps: the Driver of the bus was named "George Cameron Dean", he died later that day of head-injuries in the Victoria Hospital.....another factual thingy that has stayed attached to my brain all these years.
So who here remembers this incident, and what can you add to the story?
There is nothing I can add, as I was just over a year old at the time. That is very tragic. I knew nothing about it until reading this. An interesting bit of history, and I appreciate you sharing.
Flugel Horn, I just barely remember this. But I can't recall any details.
I remember the accident now that you mention it. Was the talk of the town for quite a while. No one wanted to take a trip on a bus for quite a while after it happened. Cannot remember any details as far as names etc as I was only 17 at the time & I guess I had other things on my mind!!! I must say that this accident has come up in conversation many times over the years.
Maybe Stantheman has better recollections! Nanaimo Free Pess archives?
The Nanaimo Daily News referred to the crash briefly, in a story a few years ago regarding a bus crash in Quebec (within the last 10 years). But the Daily News article called the Nanaimo bus a "Vancouver Island Coast Lines" bus, not "Coach Lines".......so that research wasn't exactly excellent.
I missed the boat on this: I should have emailed the city-editor in anticipation of the 30th anniversary of the crash, in summer-2007. But Elvis anniversaries must have been on my mind instead (or perhaps the anniversary of Saturday Night Fever). Ahh, 1977.
The only other thing I ever found on the net was a reference to a "George Dean" memorial trophy for something like a bowling tourney (he was the bus driver).
Labour-Day 1977 Buscrash at lantzville
....a pick-up truck had cut off the tractor and trailer unit that was carrying a rubber-tired loader.....the loader went airborne off the trailer and slid along the side of the bus on the roadway, tearing it open like a can opener would to a can of sardines.....it was a terrible accident for sure.......stan the man
I would have been 13 when this happened. I remember it being a huge news story, so many lives lost. I seem to recall something about the vehicle that caused the crash leaving the scene but later being located at the BC Ferry terminal. The other thing I remember is that Lantzville seemed so far away back then, probably because there wasn't all the development between the north end of Nanaimo and the crash site.
I used BC Archives to search the date for deaths that occurred at that time/place and it looks like many of those killed were seniors.
I too have looked for information about the crash on the Internet without success, until I found it on this site.
Besides the crash story I'm looking forward to reading many more stories about Nanaimo. I've lived here for 45 years (since I was 6 months old) and my Mom and her Mom were both born and raised in Nanaimo. The Naylor family has a considerable amount of interesting history that I hope to slowly add to the site.
Two years after this accident I moved into the then Cassidy auto wrecking yard with a one year old child. It was the owners son who was driving the semi and flatbed. there were serious problems with the truck, I cannot remember what all but it was not up to standard in many ways and it was the contents of the flat bed that killed those on the bus and the fault layed with the driver whos first name was Howie. ( Howie was really young and the fault likely laid with whoever was supposed to strap things down properly etc.) That bus was in the auto wreckers, I think it was the bus and I used to go and look at it and shudder.
My then husband was a heavy duty mechanic there and we heard the story from Howie and the owners who were a couple of charactors and brothers.
Living in the auto wreckers was quite the experience.
"Seniors" might be a pointer. Could it have been a local charter by an organization that used to be called the "Old Age Pensioners' Association" for a day trip? Was Bowen Park Seniors' Centre in existence at the time? Seniors being involved might point to a charter trip to Reno or some place like that. I worked with a woman whose husband drove Reno charters for years for the company, but unfortunately I've lost contact with her, and her last name (and his) is so common that I'd be going through more than a column in the phone book, and I don't remember her husband's first name. But I'd bet he'd remember some details.
Originally Posted by susanbee1964
There might be some source of information through the archives of a seniors' organization somewhere.
The best source of information, of course, would be if there's someone here who had a grandparent or great-grandparent aboard.
Lantzville Bus Crash
I knew the bus driver..George Dean...and went to high school with his daughter Kelly...One of my best friends mother was George's sister...He lived in Campbell River...George was a really nice guy...such a tragedy!