Nearly 40 people have filed a $500-million suit following a deadly bus crash that killed three Chinese tourists on Hwy. 401 near Prescott, Ont., last year.
On June 4, 2018, an American tour bus carrying 37 people, 35 of whom were Chinese citizens, crashed into a rock formation on the side of Highway 401.
Three of the tourists died as a result of the crash — 60-year-old Weiping Lu, 57-year-old Xueying Ye and 54-year-old Changlin Xu — and more than 20 passengers were injured.
The group was travelling to Toronto on a 10-day trip to see parts of the eastern United States and Canada, according to the statement of claim. At the time of the crash, the plaintiffs say there was ongoing construction in the area.
Chunlin Huang, the law clerk working with Miryam Gorelashvili, a personal injury lawyer with Ottawa-based MG Law, said they and Toronto-based personal injury firm Thomson Rogers are representing 39 Chinese nationals — 23 passengers and 16 family members and plaintiffs who survived the crash.
The group filed a statement of claim on Dec. 4 asking for $500 million in damages. The defendants listed were bus driver Jia Qi, a 32-year-old American from Flushing, N.Y.; Union Tour Express Inc., the American travel company that operated the tour bus; Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation; Cruickshank Construction and Coco Paving.
In February, Qi was charged with careless driving. His matter is still before the courts.
The court documents list numerous complaints against Qi, who the plaintiffs allege was an “incompetent driver lacking in reasonable skill and self-command.” They allege that he was speeding when the bus hit the rock formation and that he failed to assure the brakes on the bus were in proper working order.
The court documents also claim he was not in a fit state to drive, that he was texting at the time of the crash and that, before the collision, he had been distracted by his GPS device.
As for allegations made against Union Tours Express Inc., the group says the tour company was negligent in failing to properly train Qi and allege the company did not properly check its vehicle to ensure it was safe to operate.
Both Coco Paving and Cruickshank Construction were listed in the suit for allegedly not adequately securing the highway during construction, including what they say was a lack of signage and rumble strips along the corridor, which was reduced to one lane for construction.
The Ministry of Transportation was listed for similar allegations as the construction companies, but the documents also claim the government should have known the stretch of Highway 401 where the bus crashed, between Edward Street and Maitland Road, was unsafe, since it “has been the scene of many major motor-vehicle collisions in recent years, including fatal multi-vehicle collisions.”
None of these allegations has been proven in court.
Huang said at this point, the tourists and the plaintiffs are awaiting statements of defence from those listed in the suit. In the meantime, Huang said the personal injury firms have hired a Canadian doctor to travel to China to assess the injuries of the plaintiffs.
The suit lists 23 people who were allegedly injured in myriad ways during the crash, and alleges these injuries have, in some cases, forced the crash victims to go through “extensive and prolonged medical rehabilitation, including, but not limited to, physiotherapy and psychotherapy services.”
Steve Cruickshank, CEO of Cruickshank Construction Limited, says he is not allowed to comment under his contract with the Ministry of Transportation, but did say the company had not been served any papers yet.
Global News attempted to contact the MTO, Coco Paving and Union Tours Limited, but has yet to receive a response.
— With files from Beatrice Britneff