Justice Neil Gabrielson said he accepts the recommendation of the advisory committee for the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund for payouts of $525,000 for the 16 families of people who died in the April 6 bus crash north of Tisdale, Sask.
The crowdfunding effort initiated after the crash ultimately brought in $15.1 million on the GoFundMe website.
Each of the 13 surviving players will receive $475,000, according to the committee’s recommendations.
The amounts include 29 interim payments of $50,000 approved in August and any money left over should be divided equally among the survivors, the committee concluded.
The judge commended the committee’s work, stating its “simplicity and reasonableness” appealed to him.
“It’s a rare occasion that from great tragedy comes great generosity. Such was the genesis of the money raised,” Gabrielson said.
Scott Thomas, the father of late Bronco Evan Thomas, said he feels the committee got it right.
“We’d give any amount of money to get our son back. No question. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster this last little while for sure,” Thomas said.
With the GoFundMe court process concluded, he said there “are still a lot of chapters to close,” including spending the first Christmas without his son and experiencing the first anniversary of the crash.
The fundamental question in dividing the funds, according to the committee, was to determine whether payments should be divided equally or unequally.
The committee received 31 reports approved by the 13 survivors and family members of the deceased. Twenty-four people stated they wished to be heard by the committee directly.
They were interviewed between Oct. 30 and Nov. 6.
The majority of those interviewed stated the money should be divided in equal amounts for multiple reasons, including concerns that unequal payments would impair friendships between the affected families.
However, nearly all claimants “stated that they realized there were other fair, reasonable and acceptable ways the GoFundMe moneys could be allocated.”
Lawyer Kerry Gellrich represented Logan Boulet’s parents, saying her clients appreciate and respect the committee’s recommendation – but it’s not what they wanted.
“The Boulets feel the best way to honour their son, to honour his team spirit and to honour his commitment to his teammates would be to divide the funds equally,” Gellrich said.
Kevin Mellor, who appeared by phone to represent late Bronco Adam Herold’s family, said they support the committee’s recommendation.
WATCH BELOW: Video coverage of the Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe campaign
Three “entrenched” claimants spoke to the advisory committee at separate times and claimed to speak for the other families, according to the committee.
“Each of them asserted that all of the other claimants and their families were unanimous in supporting an equal distribution,” the report said.
“Two went so far as to suggest that unless the advisory committee recommended an equal distribution the reputations of individual committee members could be ruined.”
Comments from the three unnamed claimants didn’t influence the committee’s recommendations, “but they did provide us with insight into the pressure to conform felt by many of the families,” the committee wrote.
In October, the committee received court clarification that the money could be distributed based on more than simply expenses incurred since April.
The committee concentrated “on recommending payments in the nature of a gift to the 29 claimants.”
The reported noted that no value can be placed on the physical and emotional effect on the Broncos survivors and families. For families of the deceased, the committee expressed hope that a payment might help memorialize their late loved ones.
“The anguish and grief suffered by one family cannot be measured in monetary terms against that of another family,” the committee said.
The advisory committee included three interviewers and the following committee members:
- Dennis Ball – a retired Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench judge
- Hayley Wickenheiser – a four-time Olympic gold medallist
- Mark Chipman – the executive chairman of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club
- Peter Spafford– a surgeon and the department head at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine
- Kevin Cameron – the executive director of the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu faces 16 charges of dangerous driving causing death and 13 charges of dangerous driving causing bodily harm related to the crash.
He’s scheduled to make his next court appearance on Dec. 18. in Melfort provincial court.
The owner of Adesh Deol Trucking Ltd., the company employing Sidhu, is set to appear on Nov. 30 on eight charges relating to non-compliance with federal and provincial safety regulations.
— With files from the Canadian Press