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Recommendations approved on how to hand out Broncos GoFundMe cash

Scott Thomas, father of deceased 18-year-old Broncos forward Evan Thomas, speaks to reporters after a court hearing related to the money raised in the aftermath of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash outside the Court of Queens Bench in Saskatoon on August 15, 2018. - Liam Richards / The Canadian Press

SASKATOON — A Saskatchewan judge has approved a committee's recommendation on how to distribute $15.2 million raised in a GoFundMe campaign after the Humboldt Broncos bus crash.

Justice Neil Gabrielson agreed Wednesday that 16 families who lost a loved one in the April 6 crash should receive $525,000 each. He also accepted a recommendation of $475,000 for each of the 13 surviving players, some of whom suffered life-changing injuries.

The final payouts include an interim payment of $50,000 that was approved in August.

Many of the families had said that the money should be split evenly.

But the judge said he agreed with the committee's reasoning that the families of the 13 survivors still have their sons, and can celebrate their survival and take pride in their accomplishments.

"The simplicity of ... the recommendation appeals to me and I adopt the reasons for the distribution recommended," Gabrielson said in a Saskatoon courtroom. 

The junior hockey team's bus and a tractor-trailer collided in rural Saskatchewan while the Broncos were on their way to a playoff game.

The committee was made up of five people, including a retired judge, a doctor and women's hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser. It based its recommendations on discussions with families over the last few months.

Kerry Gellrich, a lawyer representing the family of Logan Boulet who died in the crash, had argued the funds should be distributed equally.

"The Boulets feel they were a team before the collision and following the crash they have been brought so much closer together," Gellrich said in court. "The Boulets feel it is not possible to value anyone's pain or losses over another's."

Tom Straschnitzki, whose son Ryan was paralyzed from the chest down, wasn't thrilled with the final payout nor how long it took to make a decision.

He had advocated that the fund simply be divided equally 29 ways.

"It sure took a long time. I thought it was just simple math, but that's just me," Straschnitzki told The Canadian Press when reached Wednesday in Alberta. "What are we, in the eighth month now?"

Straschnitzki noted that he and his family are still living in a hotel while their Airdrie, Alta.,  home is renovated for his son. He said costs will be ongoing for many of the injured.

"Not all of that's covered of course. It's a bit pricey. There's a ton of expenses for sure."

Scott Thomas, whose son Evan also died, said his family is happy the decision has been made and believes the committee got it right.

"Clearly they were objective," Thomas said outside court. "I think it was a great process and in the end I support everything they've done.

"We'd give any amount of money to have our son back, no question."

Kevin Mellor, a lawyer representing the family of Adam Herold who also lost his life, told court over the phone that the family was ready to move on and supported the advisory committee's report. 

Jeff Lee, lawyer for the Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc., called the difference in amounts modest.

He said he's consulted with the lawyers involved and an appeal is unlikely.

— With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary. Follow @RyanBMcKenna on Twitter

 

Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press

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