Iowa City student killed in B.C. bus crash remembered as kind soccer talent

VICTORIA — One of two 18-year-old students who died when a tour bus crashed on Vancouver Island is being remembered by his former principal as a friend to everyone at the Iowa high school where he was a talented soccer player.

John Geerdes graduated from Iowa City High School this year before enrolling at the University of Victoria.

“He was very excited about studying at the university there,” school principal John Bacon said Monday.

Geerdes was killed when a charter bus carrying 45 students and two teaching assistants crashed on a gravel road between the communities of Port Alberni and Bamfield late Friday.

Bacon said he emailed parents and students on Saturday after learning about the crash and a crisis team will be at the school to provide counselling.

Geerdes has four siblings including a sister at the school of 1,600 students, who are mourning the loss of Geerdes, he said.

“It’s just a huge loss for a lot of people.”

Bacon said the school’s close-knit soccer team has also been hard hit by Geerdes’ death.

“They spent a couple of hours with their coach just sharing stories and I think that really helped those guys.”

The RCMP said an 18-year-old woman from Winnipeg was also killed in the crash, but neither the provincial coroner’s service nor the Mounties have released the names of the students.

More than a dozen students were injured in the crash on the remote road on their way to the Bamfield Marine Science Centre.

University of Victoria spokeswoman Denise Helm said one student remained in hospital on Monday but she could not provide any details.

Students from several universities attend the marine science centre and students from the University of Victoria have been taking field trips there every fall for at least 18 years, she said.

Stella Peters of the Huu-ay-aht First Nation said she and her husband James Nookemus drove past the scene where she saw a bus down an embankment between 9 and 9:30 p.m. on the rainy night.

“(I saw) about 30, 35 kids standing on the side of the road, people frantic seeing the bus over the side,” James said.

“The boys were trying to help some of the other students out of the bus. They were trying to get them up the bank. There was quite a drop, a steep embankment.”

The students wanted the couple to call 911 but there was no cellphone service in the area, Peters said.

“We had to keep driving just to try and get cell service and it was 20, 25 minutes later that we actually were able to get through. We were both on our cellphones and James finally got through to 911,” Peters said.

“You should be able to reach people on your cellphone out there.”

Peters said she’s thinking of all the students, and especially of the families whose children have died.

“Our hearts go out to their families.”

Robert Dennis, chief councillor for the Huu-ay-aht who arrived at the scene about 20 minutes after Peters and her husband, said he has called for a review of the emergency response protocol because of the lack of cell service.

“I’m worried and scared and you worry about anybody going on that road,” he said, adding high-frequency radios could be installed in vehicles so communication is received in Port Alberni and Bamfield.

“That’s why in our community we let each other know where we’re going because we know it could be hours before anybody passes you in another vehicle. Especially at night time.”

On the weekend, Dennis said the First Nation community has also been asking the provincial government for the road quality to be improved for years.

Claire Trevena, the minister of transportation and infrastructure, said Monday she has heard concerns raised about the road by the Huu-ay-aht First Nation and the local member of the legislature.

“Ministry officials have been looking into the issue to determine if safety improvements could be made,” she said in an email statement. “The situation is complex as this is a private, industrial road, operated and maintained by private companies for active forestry operations.”

The crash remains under investigation, but police said Monday that alcohol has been ruled out as a contributing factor.

In a statement, the RCMP said the driver of a second vehicle who was in the area at the time of the crash remained at the scene.

Over the coming weeks, the Mounties said investigators will work to determine the cause of the crash, which includes analyzing more than 40 statements that were taken.

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver

The Canadian Press

Victoria bus crash

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Search and rescue crews and RCMP help a tow-truck crew to remove a bus from the ditch of a logging road near Bamfield, B.C., Saturday. Two University of Victoria students died and more than a dozen other people were injured after the bus on its way to a marine research centre rolled over on a narrow gravel road on Vancouver Island Friday. The incident happened between the communities of Port Alberni and Bamfield, said the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria, which received a call for assistance at around 10 p.m.

Comments are closed

Just Posted

COVID-19: Red Deer at three active cases of central zone’s four

Alberta confirmed 130 new COVID-19 cases Monday, including three in the City… Continue reading

Owner of former Red Deer fire hall says he will move his city insurance business to Red Deer County

John Ponto said he wasted six months trying to get the city’s approval for his development

Red Deer’s crime map to continue beyond a one-year pilot project

There’s been nothing but good public feedback, says city manager

Red Deer city council is open to allowing office space in Edgar Industrial Park site

Coun. Frank Wong unsuccessfully argued the downtown will suffer

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

David Marsden: Leave the financial stimulus to private industry

So, you’ve heard the announcement about the economic stimulus that is much… Continue reading

FC Dallas pulls out of MLS is Back Tournament in Florida due to COVID-19

FC Dallas pulls out of MLS is Back Tournament in Florida due to COVID-19

Don’t criticize China’s treatment of Hong Kong, Beijing warns Canada

Don’t criticize China’s treatment of Hong Kong, Beijing warns Canada

Bob Rae named UN ambassador, plays down Security Council loss

Bob Rae named UN ambassador, plays down Security Council loss

AIDS report: Kids are lagging and COVID-19 is harming care

AIDS report: Kids are lagging and COVID-19 is harming care

Alberta justice minister cleared in ethics case tied to oil funding inquiry

Alberta justice minister cleared in ethics case tied to oil funding inquiry

Scientists urge WHO to acknowledge virus can spread in air

Scientists urge WHO to acknowledge virus can spread in air

Can Flushing the Toilet Spread the Virus?

Can Flushing the Toilet Spread the Virus?

Most Read