Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flashback: Feb. 22, 2010

Minnesota bus driver Dale Roberge, 71, died Feb. 22, 2010 while driving fellow Olympic Bus Network drivers to their shift.

VANOC bus driver dies
Bob Mackin, QMI Agency

Tragedy struck the Olympic Bus Network Monday morning when a 71-year-old driver suffered a heart attack and died at the wheel on Highway 1 near the Port Mann Bridge.

The man, whose name was not immediately released, was shuttling five other bus drivers westbound from their Fraser Valley motels. One of the passengers grabbed the wheel and safely stopped the vehicle around 4 a.m. The surviving drivers were given the day off and offered counseling.

“Health and safety, it’s our number one priority,” said VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade said. “Nothing is sadder for us than to lose someone on the workforce.”

VANOC budgeted $52.3 million for charter bus systems and hired Orlando, Fla.-based Gameday Management to handle logistics. Most of the 1,100 vehicles and their drivers are from the United States, including Alabama, Texas and Wisconsin. Gameday event operations vice-president Mike Witte did not return a Monday phone call.

An OBN driver, who asked that his name not be published, told 24 hours that a drug test was required for employment, but not a medical certificate.

Edison Transportation-contracted drivers nearly revolted Feb. 4 over 18 hour work days. Commercial vehicle safety rules say drivers cannot exceed 13 hours daily and must have 10 hours off-duty per day. VANOC replaced, at its own cost, 100 public transit buses which were supplied north by Shuttle Bus Leasing of Riverside, Calif.

(Postscript: Through the kind help of a contracted driver with Edison Transportation, I eventually found Jeanette Roberge, widow of Dale Roberge. Read about him here and here. Many tears were shed over the deaths of Nodar Kumaritashvili and Therese Rochette. Rightly so. VANOC mentioned the death of Mr. Roberge at a news conference on Feb. 22, 2010, though his name was not announced. VANOC, however, did not contact Mrs. Roberge to offer condolences. Sadly, the couple was three weeks shy of wedding anniversary number 50.)

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